With little fanfare, a US Navy destroyer conducted the latest in a series of patrols around disputed islands in the South China Sea last Friday. China protested the intrusion as "illegal" and "provocative." As we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, it came as a new public opinion survey showed that Chinese hold a mixed view of the US.
Favorable opinion of the United States is improved, according to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center, up 6 points from last year, to 50%. On the other hand, 52% believe the United States is trying to block China's rise to power and Chinese public opinion ranks the US as the number one threat facing the country.
Among the disputes between Washington and Beijing, no issue is more sensitive than the South China Sea, which China regards as its sovereign territory. The US maintains these are international waters, and supports the decision of an international court earlier this year, which rejected China's claims. Last Friday, the US Navy sent a destroyer into disputed waters for the fourth time in the past year. According to Reuters, USS Decatur sailed near Woody Island in the Paracels, China's most important base in that group.
China's also constructed new bases in the Spratley Group and military analysts believe the last position China needs to dominate the South China Sea, is Scarborough Shoal, just west of the Philippines. China kicked out Philippine fishermen there two years ago, but has not yet started to build a base. Last week, China promised the Philippines new president 1$3.5 billion dollars of investment when he visited Beijing, while Manila agreed to new talks on maritime disputes.