World

He does not know how to lead a superpower

Chinese media blasts US president-elect Trump for his tweets over drone incident

BEIJING: Chinese state media said yesterday that US president-elect Donald Trump's diplomatic inexperience could spark a confrontation between the two nations, while one paper termed him unfit to lead a superpower.

They were commenting on his response to Beijing's seizure of a US maritime probe in international waters, a move which raised heightened tensions between the world's two largest military powers.

A Chinese naval vessel "unlawfully" seized the unmanned underwater vehicle in the South China Sea around 50 nautical miles north-west of Subic Bay in the Philippines, the Pentagon said on Friday.

China said the drone had been snatched because it might pose a safety hazard to other vessels.

It also said it "strongly opposed" US reconnaissance activities and had asked Washington to stop them. The US said the device was collecting information on water temperature, salinity and sea clarity.

On Sunday, after Beijing and Washington announced the drone would be returned, Mr Trump tweeted: "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back - let them keep it!"

Mr Trump refuses to heed US President Barack Obama's advice to do better homework and think through "what the consequences are" before upending long-standing US policies.

He could easily drive China-US relations into what Mr Obama portrays as "full-conflict mode", where "everybody is worse off".

'INEPT'

An article quoted experts as calling Mr Trump's behaviour "diplomatically inept".

Mr Trump has already infuriated Beijing by questioning US policy on Taiwan, calling China a currency manipulator and threatening punitive tariffs on Chinese imports.

China's ministry of defence on Saturday had slammed alleged US "hyping" of China's capture of the drone as "inappropriate and unhelpful".

"Mr Trump is not behaving as a president who will become master of the White House in a month. He bears no sense of how to lead a superpower," the Global Times, which has close ties to the ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial.

There are broader tensions in the South China Sea, where China is fortifying its claims to the region by expanding tiny reefs and islets into artificial islands hosting military facilities.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have competing claims in the waterway. - AFP

His tweets 'more dangerous than funny'

BEIJING: China Daily, in an editorial yesterday, urged US president-elect Donald Trump to think through before upending policies relating to US-China ties.

"China steals US Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented (sic) act," Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday.

It went viral, thanks mostly to the obvious misspelling, but what is truly amazing about this tweet was that Mr Trump had completely misrepresented what had actually happened.

And that is more dangerous than funny.

To set the record straight, the Chinese Defence Ministry gave an outline of the incident:

A Chinese naval vessel discovered an "unknown device" in the waters where it was sailing and "conducted investigation and verification" to "prevent it from endangering the safety of passing ships and personnel".

After identifying the underwater drone as a US asset, they "decided to return it in an appropriate manner".

The two sides have been "in communication all along". The Pentagon knows its device was not "stolen".

Both Beijing and Washington have treaded cautiously because, unlike Mr Trump, they know the sensitivity of matters concerning the South China Sea, which involve convoluted strategic divergences.

Neither gave precise coordinates for the incident, in keeping with the two countries' long disagreement over the jurisprudential standing of what Washington calls "international waters" - which is absent from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - and whether a country has exclusive sovereign jurisdiction over its "exclusive economic zones".

TRICKY

But, as well as the overlap and tricky distinction between what the Pentagon calls "collecting unclassified scientific data" and "close-in surveillance" and military surveys, chances are both parties are keen to keep the incident low-profile, knowing there is a legal grey zone to the matter.

The best way out, therefore, is to leave it to those in the know - in this case the two militaries.

Truth is they have already "secured an understanding" through "direct engagement", as the Pentagon put it. 


donald trumpChinaDrones