No Port in a Storm: Kitty Hawk II

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The Kitty Hawk affair is getting murkier and murkier. Senior U.S. admirals now reportedly say that the flip flopping by Chinese authorities on letting the aircraft carrier dock in Hong Kong was the second such incident this month. Earlier, two minesweepers were refused permision to shelter from an approaching storm and refuel. That is very odd indeed as it is the first rule of the sea since time immemorial that ships in distress be given shelter. The Chinese navy could hardly have been worrying about two dinky minesweepers monitoring their exercises. And as sailors themselves–for surely the navy must have been consulted–you’d assume they would have to have very powerful reasons indeed for refusing shelter to ships in distress. (The two ships were refueled at sea by a U.S. navy tanker and rode out the storm). Curioser and curioser, as Alice would say. That this comes at a time when a Chinese navy ship has just made a historic first visit since World War II and an earlier joint exercise in the Atlantic between Britain’s Royal Navy and Chinese ships, would seem to indicate that good relations are on the agenda. On the face of it, China seems to have committed a grave breach of the rules of the sea. It would certainly be nice to hear the Chinese side of the story but sadly, that seems unlikely as a stony silence still seems to be the preferred tactic even in 2007 when faced with this sort of situation.

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