China continues challenging Navy ships in Yellow Sea

The provocations from China have continued, but you may not know it.  According to the AP, the Obama administration has started playing down these challenges to the US Navy.  The latest incident occurred yesterday, involving two Chinese vessels who came within 30 yards of a ship conducting a sub hunt:

The Pentagon Tuesday played down a confrontation between Chinese vessels and one of its Navy surveillance ships, taking a decidedly more low-key tone than during similar incidents two months ago.

In what has become almost a routine cat-and-mouse game on the seas, there have been four incidents in the past month in which Chinese-flagged fishing vessels maneuvered too close to two unarmed ships crewed by civilians and used by the Pentagon to do underwater surveillance and submarine hunting missions, two defense officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss some of the incidents and details that the Pentagon has not yet released, adding that they fear such maneuvers are not just dangerous in themselves but could lead to escalated incidents. …

The Victorious crew sounded its alarm and shot water from its fire hoses to try to deter the vessels in an hour-long incident, one official said. The vessels didn’t leave until the Victorious radioed a nearby Chinese military vessel for help, said Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman.

After incidents in March that included similar though apparently more aggressive Chinese maneuvers, the Pentagon protested to Beijing officials and issued a strong public statement calling the Chinese actions harassment.

But on Tuesday, Whitman declined to characterize what the Chinese vessels were trying to do, saying only that their actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”

The lack of protest probably told Beijing all they need to know about Obama.  If you challenge him often enough, he’ll back down.  That seems to be the case here, in which Chinese “fishing vessels” harrassed warships for an hour in international waters, and the US has nothing to say about it except for safety concerns.  What’s next, a PSA for life preservers?

The White House wasn’t the only group downplaying the incident, either.  No national media except the AP carried the story.  The New York Times, an AP partner, didn’t even carry this report.  In fact, they didn’t report on it at all, and the latest story on the Yellow Sea was an accident involving a Chinese submarine from May 3rd — which would have provided an interesting springboard for this story.

With China expanding its blue-water navy and almost certainly expanding its submarine assets, the kind of exercise the Navy was conducting in the Yellow Sea is critical to our defense against Chinese aggression in the Pacific.  If Beijing has continued harassing American Navy ships in international waters, that’s important to know, and it’s equally important to maintain public criticism of China for doing it.  The AP apparently understands this, but it seems that they’re among the few.