11 March 2009

The South China Sea underwear encounter - a temporary misunderstanding

There is nothing more misleading than a pack of media hounds getting the wrong scent, as the brouhaha surrounding the mishap between USNS Impeccable and a few Chinese boats clearly demonstrates.

Washington had lodged a formal complaint with Beijing yesterday alleging that five Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed the USNS Impeccable in international waters on Sunday. The Pentagon alleged it followed other "aggressive" incidents and urged China to observe international maritime rules.
Of course, the journos have seen only the military stand-off point, disregarding the essence of the issue. Which is stated quite unequivocally:
US crew members sprayed the smaller vessels with fire hoses, hoping to keep them away."[But] the Chinese crew members disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet," the statement added, in what the Pentagon has described, with some understatement, as a "bizarre" incident.
I would say that this is a singular most important attempt of rapprochement since Nixon's ping-pong diplomacy. Of course, being communists, Chinese folks may have interpreted the "wet t-shirt term" erroneously, but one should make allowances for lack of experience, translation problems and remember that it was just a first for everyone concerned.

As for the next try: aside of hiring some more suitable team players, Chinese navy should consider getting closer than 25 feet: not every sailor in US Navy owns binoculars.