U.S. spy ship & China

Just when the capitalist economic meltdown has the world by the throat, the Pentagon reminds us it can pose an even more urgent danger.

The threat is of U.S. military aggression against the People’s Republic of China. There are other examples of big, costly and deadly U.S. aggressions: Iraq, Afghanistan and inside Pakistan. But an incident in the South China Sea raises the stakes once again.

Does the Pentagon think it is 1921 when the U.S. Navy could sail a gunship up the Yangtse River and force the Chinese to submit? The Chinese Socialist Revolution put an end to those days. Even if it allows foreign investment, the PRC wants no imperialist warships prowling its coastal waters.

The Impeccable, an intelligence-gathering ship that allegedly doesn’t carry large-caliber weapons, is a U.S. warship of a different type. It is leased to a nominally civilian company and staffed by non-military personnel, except for the Navy crew handling its super-sophisticated sonar equipment.

This equipment can map the bottom of the ocean. It can also track submarines, such as the submarines of the Chinese fleet. According to its official description, Impeccable-type ships “are operated by Military Sealift Command to support the anti-submarine warfare mission of the commanders of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.”

The Impeccable was plying the waters 75 miles south of China’s Hainan Island, where China has reportedly built a large naval base. The ship was between Hainan and Taiwan, the Chinese island that was once the stronghold of the anti-communist Kuomintang and which the U.S. has used against the PRC. Last summer the Chinese military stopped its dialog with the Pentagon after the U.S. closed a $6.5 billion arms deal with Taiwan. In a gesture to the new Obama administration, it recently offered to resume the military talks. Thus the Impeccable was in a sensitive, potential conflict zone, provoking trouble while scouting Chinese submarines.

Admiral Timothy Keating, U.S. commander in the Pacific, shows impeccable arrogance when he says he’s worried about China’s military build-up. Even using the highest figures for the Chinese military budget, it is still about one-tenth of the Pentagon’s. The PRC has made tremendous advances in technology, but its military is basically defensive. Still, the Chinese pushed back when the Impeccable pushed too hard. Using a low-tech response this time, Chinese sailors threw pieces of wood in front of the ship and used poles to foul up its sonar devices, according to Pentagon reports. The Impeccable pulled back.

Washington’s anti-China maneuvers then moved to a different arena: subversion and propaganda. The Dalai Lama has been on the U.S. payroll for close to half a century. With the 50th anniversary approaching of the liberation of Tibet from a feudal theocracy headed by the Dalai Lama, this “spiritual leader” was once again at the top of the news, attacking the PRC.

But it is no longer 1921. The Chinese government was quick both to dismiss the reactionary Dalai Lama and to protest the aggressive incursion of the Impeccable. U.S. and Chinese diplomats may soon be discussing how to handle the capitalist economic crisis that is creating unemployed by the tens of millions around the world. But in a climate where sectors of the U.S. ruling class and especially the Pentagon are itching to find a military solution to the world crisis, the Impeccable incident underlined the risk to millions caused by the Pentagon’s policing of the world’s seas and its continual provocations against China.

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