China is becoming increasingly worried about plans by the United States and South Korea to hold naval exercises in the Yellow Sea. The drill is designed to send a message to North Korea, which is blamed for the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March. But Beijing says the exercise compromises its security. Chinese naval vessels in the Yellow Sea have been conducting their own military exercises in the strategic area, a sign of Beijing's deepening concern over plans by South Korea and its ally, the United States, to hold military exercises in the same area.
No date for the exercise has been set, but it is clearly a message of strength targeted at North Korea, which is blamed for the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel, in March.
China, North Korea and South Korea all share the Yellow Sea. But it is of strategic importance to China as many of its eastern economic zones and ports depend on shipping lanes in the Yellow sea.
China says the U.S. and South Korean drill will compromise its core interests in the area. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday these core interests include Chinese sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity and development interests. China hopes all countries can do things to ease the tensions on the Korean peninsula rather than escalate them, Qin said.
When journalists asked if China is calling on Washington and Seoul to postpone the exercise, Qin said Beijing had made its position very clear. Beijing, he said, is keeping a close eye on the situation.
China is well within its rights to express concern, said Professor Jin Canrong, from Renmin University of International Studies. But he adds Beijing does not have the power to tell Washington and Seoul to cancel the exercise, despite its security interests and those of the people living within in the sensitive area.
He also said Beijing is not trying to support North Korea with the Chinese military's exercise and is only asserting its independence.
Some South Korean media reports have said Washington and Seoul may move their exercise to the eastern or southern coasts of the Korean Peninsula, to soothe Beijing. But the reports have not been confirmed.
The Chinese media is simmering with anger over the planned U.S.-South Korean exercise. Some Chinese military experts say the exercise is merely a front for the U.S. to help realize other strategic goals in the region as China rapidly modernizes and expands its naval strength in the strategic region.