BEIJING/NEW YORK: After days of hesitation, the Pentagon has decided to send an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea in upcoming joint drills with the South Korea despite China’s strong objections, a Pentagon spokesman has said.
Chinese scholars said the move is likely to draw a harsh response from Beijing, and cast a shadow over China’s already chilly military relations with the United States.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said on Thursday that the U.S. will send the USS George Washington supercarrier, which participated in last month’s joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea in the Sea of Japan, to the Yellow Sea for their upcoming exercise.
He did not give specific dates for the exercise in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, but the Associated Press said he was referring to the joint annual exercise named “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” scheduled for Aug. 16 to 26.
“China will definitely react harshly to the move. It’s hard to predict its specific reaction, but that will for sure cast a shadow over Sino-U.S. military relations,” said Rear Admiral Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University.
The ministries of foreign affairs and national defense did not comment on the information as of press time on Friday.
After strong and repeated protests from China over the initial plan of sending the U.S. carrier to drills in the Yellow Sea, which Chinese experts warned would place the Chinese capital within the carrier’s striking distance, the Pentagon switched the Japan-based carrier to the Sea of Japan in the July drill.
Though many saw it as a U.S. effort not to upset China, U.S. officials stressed that the locations of its exercises was only up to Washington.
South Korea announced after the July exercise that the two sides will continue to conduct “a joint military exercise every month until the end of the year.”
China has undertaken intensified military exercises in the Yellow Sea involving several military commands and all of its three fleets before and during the U.S.-South Korea drill.