Asia Minute: U.S. and Chinese Officials in Hawai‘i to Discuss Maritime Risk

May 23, 2016

Credit Wikipedia

The latest dispute between the United States and China could be a topic of discussion in Hawai‘i this week. The meeting is a regularly-scheduled event focusing on maritime safety, but it follows a potentially dangerous encounter last week in the South China Sea. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The U.S. Defense Department says two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane on “routine patrol” last Tuesday.

The Pentagon says the incident took place in international waters of the South China Sea near Hainan Island.

Reuters quoted a U.S. Defense official as saying the two Chinese planes came within fifty feet of the U.S. aircraft.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said the planes “maintained a safe distance”…and said “we demand that the United States immediately cease this type of close reconnaissance activity to avoid having this sort of incident happening again.”

This week, U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in Hawai‘i for talks under the “Military Maritime Consultative Agreement”---a measure designed to “avoid unsafe incidents and minimize risk.”

All of this takes place as President Obama is in Asia. Starting with a visit to Vietnam, one of several countries facing territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Last week, China raised another regional objection—this one connected with the Indian navy.

Four vessels from the Indian Navy are en route to the South China Sea and waters further north for a series of port visits and a military exercise with the United States and Japan.

The Economic Times of India quoted a senior Chinese official as saying the Indian naval presence in the South China Sea is “a matter of concern.”