【英语中国】中国“蓝水海军”呼之欲出 Quest for blue water makes waves

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2014-2-14 08:36

小艾摘要: As John Kerry, US secretary of state, arrives in Asia today to reinforce the US “pivot”, the Chinese navy has been making waves by sailing new routes that illustrate its growing presence and confide ...
Quest for blue water makes waves
As John Kerry, US secretary of state, arrives in Asia today to reinforce the US “pivot”, the Chinese navy has been making waves by sailing new routes that illustrate its growing presence and confidence in the Pacific.

Chinese warships earlier this month passed through the Sunda Strait – between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra – for the first time en route to the Indian Ocean where they held exercises. They then returned via the Lombok Strait near Bali and through the Makassar Strait off Borneo.

China is trying to tilt the balance of power in the Pacific where the US has been dominant for decades by developing a “blue water” navy that can operate further from its shores. Rory Medcalf, an Asia security expert at the Lowy Institute, said the latest move was an example of China flexing its growing muscles.

“They are sending a signal that they have every right to use international waterways,” says Mr Medcalf. “In another five years, an active Chinese military presence beyond the South China Sea and East China Sea will be quite normal.”

China’s growing naval presence in the Pacific coupled with territorial disputes with Japan and southeast Asian nations are the reason US allies want Washington to become more engaged in Asia. Mr Kerry is likely to hear that message a lot as he travels from Seoul to Beijing and Jakarta in coming days ahead of an even more important visit by President Barack Obama to Asia in April.

The Chinese navy has already signalled its intention to operate regularly beyond the so-called “first island chain”, which separates the South China, East China and Yellow seas from the Pacific Ocean. Last summer, when its warships sailed through the Soya Strait between Japan and Russia for the first time, state media said China had “fulfilled its long-held dream of breaking through the ‘first island chain blockade’.”

Timothy Keating, a retired admiral who commanded US forces in the Pacific, describes the passage through the Indonesian straits as not “a big deal”, adding that it was a natural step for a country trying to develop a blue water navy.

The Chinese navy has already taken several steps towards this goal. In 2012 and 2013, it spent months participating in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. And, last October, its ships made their first voyage through the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America.

The US last year said Chinese ships had started operating inside the US exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from US territory. And the top Communist party official in Liaoning province recently revealed that China was building its first indigenous aircraft carrier at the port of Dalian – to follow the Liaoning, which it bought from Ukraine.

In another example of the Chinese military’s growing confidence – but one that is welcome in the US – its navy will this summer participate in a big international exercise in Hawaii called “Rim of the Pacific”. The Chinese army is also sending a small contingent of soldiers to take part this month in “Cobra Gold”, a major military exercise in the Asia-Pacific region that is being held in Thailand.

Gary Li, a senior analyst at IHS Maritime, says the passage through the Indonesian straits was also significant in that two destroyers were accompanied by one of China’s new amphibious vessels that can carry vehicles, helicopters and troops, and which are increasingly operating in the South China Sea and further afield. “This is where the backbone will be in future for power projection,” says Mr Li.

The anxiety of China’s neighbours has been amplified by its creation of an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea that covers the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China which calls them the Diaoyu.

Experts say Mr Kerry’s trip is important, partly because of the perception that he has paid less attention to Asia than Hillary Clinton, his predecessor. The Philippines has urged the US to offer more support for its dispute with China – some of which came last week – while Japan was disappointed that the US did not call on Beijing to rescind its air defence zone.

Jim Shinn, a former top Asia official at the Pentagon, says the initial US response was so accommodating that “the Communist party’s national security leading group [chaired by President Xi Jinping] has probably already planned the next uptick”.

Mr Medcalf says the “jury is still out” on the pivot and that the US has “to prove that the rebalance is real and enduring”.

Additional reporting by Julie Zhu

在美国国务卿约翰?克里(John Kerry)今日抵达亚洲以强化美国“重返亚洲”战略之际,中国海军则在近期令其军舰编队接连开辟新的航线,突显其在太平洋的地位和信心不断增长。

本月早些时候,中国军舰首次通过印尼爪哇岛与苏门答腊之间的巽他海峡(Sunda Strait),前往印度洋进行演练。返程途中,中国海军编队先后通过巴厘岛附近的龙目海峡(Lombok Strait)和婆罗洲沿岸的望加锡海峡(Makassar Strait)。

中国正试图建设一支能够在远海执行任务的“蓝水”海军,从而在美国占据霸主地位几十年的太平洋上改变力量平衡。澳大利亚罗维国际政策学院(Lowy Institute)的亚洲安全事务专家罗里?梅德卡夫(Rory Medcalf)表示,最新动作是中国“秀肌肉”的一个例子。


中国在太平洋不断扩大海军力量,同时与日本和东南亚国家存在领土争端,正是美国的盟国希望华盛顿更多介入亚洲事务的原因。克里在未来几天访问首尔、北京和雅加达期间,将多次听到这层意思。4月份还有一次更重要的访问——美国总统巴拉克?奥巴马(Barack Obama)将亲自出访亚洲。

中国海军已经发出信号称,它有意常态化地在分隔南海、东海和黄海与太平洋的所谓“第一岛链”以外执行任务。去年夏天,在中国军舰编队首次通过日俄之间的宗谷海峡(Soya Strait)之后,官方媒体称,中国实现了突破“第一岛链封锁”的长期梦想。

曾统帅太平洋美军的退休海军上将蒂莫西?基廷(Timothy Keating)形容中国军舰通过印尼海峡之举“不是什么大不了的事”,并称这是试图打造一支蓝水海军的国家很自然的一步。

中国海军已朝着蓝水海军的目标迈进了好几步。2012年和2013年,中国海军花费数月时间在索马里沿岸的亚丁湾参与打击海盗的行动。去年10月,中国军舰编队还首次通过南美洲最南端的麦哲伦海峡(Strait of Magellan)。



IHS Maritime高级分析师加里?李(Gary Li)表示,中国军舰通过印尼海峡另一个重大意义表现在,除了两艘驱逐舰之外,编队还包括一艘可搭载车辆、直升机和士兵的新型两栖船坞登陆舰,这种登陆舰正越来越频繁地出现在南海和更遥远的海域。“这将是未来力量投射的骨干”,加里?李表示。

中国在东海划设防空识别区之举加剧了邻国的焦虑,这个防空识别区覆盖日本实际管辖、但中国声称拥有主权的尖阁诸岛(Senkaku Islands)——中国称其为钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿。

专家们表示,克里此行相当重要,部分原因是外界认为与前任希拉里?克林顿(Hillary Clinton)相比,他对亚洲的关注较少。菲律宾敦促美国在其与中国的主权纠纷中给予更多支持——美国在上周提供了一些支持,而日本对美国未能呼吁北京撤销防空识别区感到失望。

曾担任美国国防部亚洲事务最高官员的吉姆?希恩(Jim Shinn)表示,美国最初的反应是如此包容,以至于“共产党的国家安全领导小组(由中国国家主席习近平执掌)很可能已经在策划下一个升级行动”。


朱莉(Julie Zhu)补充报道


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