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China-US: Comment: By now every Reader knows that on 5 December the USS Cowpens, a guided missile cruiser, had a confrontation with a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy ship. The Cowpens was observing the new Chinese aircraft carrier, Liaoning, on its maiden voyage during a naval drill, according to the Chinese..

Both ships and their escorts were operating in international waters, as the US defines them. The USS Cowpens got close to the Chinese task group and was ordered to move away. A Chinese ship manuevered to ram the US cruiser, but the US cruiser moved off.

Analytical commentary has tended to see the confrontation as an example of new Chinese aggressiveness in protecting their territorial and airspace claims along the coast.

The NightWatch perspective is that China's response to the USS Cowpens' surveillance is consistent with past Chinese behavior to prevent surveillance of high value assets. It is not new nor excessive. The incident provides no basis for concluding China has become more aggressive than in the recent past in trying to prevent US intelligence collection against its high value naval assets. Thus, this is not related to China's declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that covers the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

China has been sensitive about US naval surface and aerial surveillance of China's high value naval assets since China began acquiring high value assets. That began most notably when China acquired its Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia in 1999. These three ships were the most advanced in China's inventory.China consistently has tried to prevent US Navy intelligence collectors from collecting their electronic characteristics.

China also tried to prevent US surveillance of sensitive naval facility construction, which resulted in China's downing of a US Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft on Hainan Island in April 2001.

What is new is China's willingness to engage in public discussion of the latest confrontation. A Chinese admiral said this week that China will block US surveillance when it perceives it needs to do so. Thus, actions to prevent surveillance will continue as before, appropriate to the target of US interest. Chinese press coverage of actions to fend off the US Navy will be more exaggerated and more blunt.

India-US: A diplomatic confrontation has developed between the US and India over the poor treatment of an Indian national maid who works for an Indian diplomat in New York.

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