In the wake of a tragic collision on Monday in the Strait of Malacca between a US Navy warship and a container vessel which left 10 American sailors missing, Chinese state media has responded with a predictable lack of sympathy for its maritime rival, which it claims has behaved “arrogantly” and is becoming a danger to merchant vessels in the region.
An editorial published yesterday by China Daily argues that while the US Navy may claim to be trying to safeguard “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, its increased presence in the region is actually “proving to be an increasing hindrance to ships sailing in Asian waters.”
As evidence, the opinion piece pointed toward another incident in June in which the USS Fitzgerland collided with a Philippine container ship in waters off Japan, killing seven US sailors. China Daily writes that:
It may be hard for people to understand why US warships are unable to avoid other vessels since they are equipped with the world’s most sophisticated radar and electronic tracking systems, and aided by crew members on constant watch.
But investigations into the cause of the USS Fitzgerald collision shed some light on the way US warships tend to sail without observing maritime traffic rules and the sloppiness of their crews. According to the Philippine container ship’s captain, it signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” appeared on a course to cross its path. Yet the US warship did not respond or take evasive action.
This latest incident involved the USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer which sailed close to an island in the South China Sea claimed by China earlier this month in a “freedom of navigation” operation aimed at challenging China’s sweeping claims over the region, through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes each year.
The operation was the third of its kind since Donald Trump took office in January and caused Beijing to lodge an official protest with Washington, arguing that the warship had “seriously” impaired China’s sovereignty and security.
But now, China Daily is arguing that the US Navy is more than just a danger to China’s territorial claims, writing that American warships have become “dangerous obstacles” in Asian waters, posing a “growing risk” to commercial shipping. In contrast, the editorial boasts about how China has built five new lighthouses on the South China Sea islands.
“Anyone should be able to tell who is to blame for militarizing the waters and posing a threat to navigation,” the piece concludes.
In another editorial published on Monday, the nationalistic tabloid the Global Times came to much the same conclusion, charging that US warships “patrol too frequently in the Asia-Pacific,” behave “arrogantly” and conduct “many risky military activities without full preparations.” In light of this recent string of collisions, the editorial recommends that “the Americans… should restrain themselves,” concluding that “we would like to see all the US warships and their sailors remain safe.”
This is apparently in contrast to Chinese netizens who, earlier in the article, the Global Times claims had “applauded” the collision online.
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