Here’s something from a ‘media roundtable’ held in Melbourne on 8 November.
Answers come from the US Secretary of Defence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both of them in town for AUSMIN talks:
Q: Mr. Secretary, this year we’ve seen China make its claims on the South China Sea, demand that you not send an aircraft carrier into the Yellow Sea on two occasions, then taking the actions on the rare earth minerals. They reacted so strongly to the Japanese taking custody of the captain who ran the Japanese ship… Will you send an aircraft carrier back to the Yellow Sea whenever you feel like?
SEC. ROBERT GATES: Well, we — let me just say that we believe and have long believed in the importance of freedom of navigation and we intend to abide by international law. But we will assert freedom of navigation, as we have for a long time. I don’t know. Do you want to add anything?
ADM. MIKE MULLEN: The only thing I’d answer is those are international waters and they aren’t owned by China. They aren’t owned by Korea. They’re not — they’re international waters in which we have and many other countries have sailed forever. My expectation is we’ll continue to do that.
A US aircraft carrier and other warships are heading to the Yellow Sea in a show of force by Washington to deter Pyongyang from further attacks after North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island in the area.
Of course, Mullen recently told the Asia Society (which I discussed here) how worrying he found Chinese naval activity.