Monday, November 26, 2007

Unhappy Thanksgiving

for some of our sailors, the WSJ reports:

The military relationship between China and the U.S. isn't always smooth sailing. But last week's stormy waters came as a surprise. On Wednesday evening, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied permission for the USS Kitty Hawk and its carrier battle group to make a four-day port call to Hong Kong for the Thanksgiving holiday. The 8,000 servicemen aboard the ships -- and the 290 families of crew members who had flown to Hong Kong to meet them -- were left with their Thanksgiving plans in tatters.

The Kitty Hawk's visit had been well known for months, but Beijing didn't officially respond to the U.S. request for permission to dock until Wednesday evening -- at which point the ships had been waiting outside Chinese waters for a day. After getting the red light, the convoy began to head back to Japan. The ships were already more than 300 miles away when Beijing reversed its decision Thursday afternoon -- too far to make it back in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Beijing's reasons for its rejection and reversal remain opaque, like most Chinese government decisions. The snub may have been retaliation for the Pentagon's recent approval of a $940 million upgrade to Taiwan's Patriot antimissile shield. Or for President Bush's meeting this month with the Dalai Lama, the exiled religious leader of Tibet. The Chinese have offered no explanation.

The only message that stands out loud and clear is that China is not a reliable military partner. Beijing's diplomacy is also not as sophisticated as it seems. Surely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has better ways to send messages to the U.S. than by stealing Thanksgiving family dinners from American seamen.

And I thought my kids fighting over a 25 cent tchotchke was petty.

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