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12 Jan, 2019 16:38

Top US Navy commander heads to China amid spiraling tensions & raging trade war

Top US Navy commander heads to China amid spiraling tensions & raging trade war

The US chief of naval operations is set to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing to work to “avoid miscalculation” and “reduce risk” amid the ongoing trade war and heightened tensions between the world powers.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson will travel to China on Sunday. He is due to hold a range of meetings with top military brass and his counterpart, Chinese Navy Commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, a US Navy press release said. Details of Richardson’s visit remain sparse, but the CNO said “a routine exchange of views is essential, especially in times of friction, in order to reduce risk and avoid miscalculation.”

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The trip comes as tensions between Beijing and Washington are not letting up. The major bones of contention include sail-throughs by the US Navy in the South China Sea. While the US maintains it does so under the Freedom of Navigation program, China slams the actions as outright provocations.

Apart from that, China was labeled as “predatory” and “a strategic competitor” by the US Defense Department’s 2018 National Defense Strategy. 

Beijing has not minced words either – just over a week ago, it lambasted the White House for “gross interference” in internal affairs, due to President Donald Trump signing into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018. The document, among other things, pledges support and encourages “the travel of high level United States officials to Taiwan.” The latter, however, is considered an undisputed part of China by Beijing.

Earlier this month, the Chinese military said “drilling soldiers and war preparations” will be a top priority for 2019, though it did not single out any potential rival. The statement effectively echoed a call from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to hone combat skills and “prepare for war.”

That followed a dire prediction from retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who said there is “a very strong likelihood” of the US finding itself at war with China in just 15 years.

Meanwhile, China and the US also share serious disagreements in trade and commerce, dubbed “a trade war.” After being kicked off by Trump, who raised tariffs for hundreds of categories of Chinese goods in July last year, Beijing fired back with similar measures.

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