By Shiraz Paracha
The United States and its faithful allies within NATO would demand invoking the Article 5 of NATO’s charter if China conducted joint military exercises with Cuba or Venezuela in the international waters near the US coast.
But the United States navy has concluded joint military drills with the South Korean navy in the exclusive economic zone of Chinese waters, a few hundred miles from the Chinese coast in the small Yellow Sea. The US-South Korean drills were followed by the biggest ever US-Japanese joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). And the United States is planning new military maneuvers with South Korea.
The US officials have dubbed the exercises as normal as if it is the right and prerogative of the US navy’s formidable warships to roam the world oceans unchecked and engage in aggressive and intimidating military maneuvers close to other countries’ coastlines.
The Yellow Sea is between China and the Korean Peninsula, east to west coastal distance between China and Koreas is a little more than 400 miles. The north-south length of the Yellow Sea is about 600 miles. The Pentagon sent the US aircraft carrier USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea to participate in the military drills near North Korean and Chinese coasts.
The US military actions in the region are pure provocation. China has been extremely unhappy with the US aggressive policies in the region. A senior Chinese military figure has warned the US not to pour oil onto flames. Chinese commentators and military experts called the military exercises an insult to China.
But the bottom line seems to be might is right. The United States and Western countries are ‘civilised’ perhaps because they have bigger guns.
History tells us that the West applies different standards to similar situations. Nearly 48 years ago, the disclosure about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba had caused war hysteria in the United States. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved only due to the wisdom of the then Soviet prime minister Nikita Khrushchev.
In fact, the missile deployment in Cuba was the Soviet response to the placement of US missile system in Britain and Europe. Besides, the United States was bullying a close Soviet ally, Cuba.
Despite the spectacular failure of the CIA operation ‘Bay of Pigs’ that was launched to kill the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the US continued dirty tricks to destroy Cuba.
In 1962, Khrushchev agreed to withdraw missiles from Cuba only when the US president John F. Kennedy had assured him that the United States would not remove Fidel Castro from power by military means.
By using the missile threat, the Soviet leadership proved to the world that the United Sates understood the language of force.
Learned and ‘objective’ scholars of the ‘civilised’ West only accuse the Soviet Union for the 1962 Missile Crisis and give undue credit to Kennedy for averting the crisis, ignoring the fact that the same Kennedy had led the United States into the Vietnam quagmire.
North Korea is today’s Cuba. The so-called ‘independent and objective’ Western media have been engaged in relentless North Korea bashing. False and fabricated stories are published and broadcast about North Korea’s aims and actions. Such stories do not inform audience about the full background and never provide the proper context.
North Korea is presented as an evil state by the Western media and politicians. May be the country is like that but we must have the North Korean point of view and their side of the story told fairly and objectively. The audience must be provided with the real context of the conflict.
North Korea has been pushed against the wall and China is wrongly accused for supporting Pyongyang. North Korea is still a Socialist country and, in Western eyes, this seems to be the biggest crime of North Korea.
Secondly, Pyongyang challenges the continual presence of the US military in the region and the US does not like that. More than 28000 US troops are based in South Korea and nearly 50,000 are in Japan. The United States wants to keep its troops in those countries. In other words, the informal US occupation of South Korea and Japan should continue 65 years after the end of the Second World War.
Assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had received warnings of serious consequences from the United States before her visit to North Korea in 1994.
China does not have troops in North Korea and nor does Beijing directly interferes in the North Korean affairs, on the other hand, Tokyo and Soul both listen to the US dictates. However, only North Korea is blamed as a puppet regime.
Sea skirmishes between North Korea and South Korea often take place when North Korean territorial waters and maritime boundaries are violated by South Korea.
The US and South Korea do not recognise North Korean sea borders. The international law says that a country can determine its maritime boundaries.
Every country has 12 nautical miles (14 miles) of territorial water and 200 nautical miles (230 miles) of exclusive economic zone area in the sea. Countries can extend maritime boundaries in case of exclusive economic zones and continental shelf, but North Korea’s international sea water rights have been constantly violated by South Korea and its very powerful backer, the United States. And yet they blame North Korea for belligerent behaviour.
When North Korea reacts to the US-led aggression and South Korean violations, the West condemns and threatens Pyongyang. The Western media never mention the actual culprits; journalists bluntly hold North Korea ‘responsible’ for escalating tensions.
North Korea does not have a perfect system but it is not the only state in the world. From Egypt to Columbia many states treat their citizens brutally but they are not depicted as evil because they are on the US side.
The United States is wary of growing Chinese influence in East Asia. Washington is keeping a close eye on China, particularly on the Chinese navy. China has already declared the South China Sea as an area of core national interest and the Chinese navy is stretching its reach and operations.
Last year, the Pentagon estimated that China has more than 250 vessels and 60 submarines. Despite China’s denials the US continues to suspect Beijing and US military officials believe that China is developing new submarines that will be able to challenge foreign navies from invading Chinese strategic waters.
There are claims made by the US intelligence about Chinese new ballistic missiles that can destroy submarines.
However, in reality, there is a big gap between China and the United States’ naval capabilities. The US navy is much bigger and deadlier than the Chinese. But the US is using every excuse and opportunity to increase its military presence in the Pacific region.
The Pentagon has already transferred its nuclear submarines, air units and warships to the Pacific.
Last month, the President Barack Obama was in the region to shore up support against China but he failed to achieve the major goal of his visit.
Soon after the Obama’s inconclusive visit, exaggerated claims about the possibility of military conflict on the Korean Peninsula were made. Such claims and North Korean alleged aggression could be part of a psychological warfare that aims to put further pressure on China.
Sending of the USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) should be seen in that context as the United States is desperately asserting its presence in the Yellow Sea and the repeated military exercises are one expression of that desire.
Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst. His email address is: shiraz_paracha@hotmail