Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on March 20, 2008
For a ship that’s about to get mothballed, the USS Kitty Hawk sure has a way of getting attention. Recall back in November, the Chinese government suddenly refused permission for the aircraft carrier (which the Navy is taking out of service later this year) to make a long-scheduled port visit in Hong Kong, ruining Thanksgiving for thousands of sailors and their families and creating a mini-incident between Washington and Beijing. More recently, the Kitty Hawk was a pawn in haggling between the governments of India and Russia, with New Delhi officials upset about Moscow’s foot-dragging on the delivery of an aircraft carrier whispering that India was planning on doing a deal with the Americans to take the Kitty Hawk instead.
Now the Kitty Hawk is back in the news. With the Taiwanese presidential election only days away and the Chinese government watching very carefully, Reuters is reporting that the Navy has sent the ship to waters off the eastern coast of Taiwan. Just in case. “We feel we are responsibly positioned at this time, “the defense official told Reuters, saying the two carriers were not near enough to the island to provoke China but would be able to “respond if there’s a provocative situation.”
Nobody should make a big deal of this. The Americans have done this in the past before Taiwanese elections. And in the ’90s, when the Chinese were angry with then-president Lee Teng-hui and tensions heated up between the two sides, the Kitty Hawk sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The fact that the Kitty Hawk is off the east coast of the island (i.e. farther away from China) rather than the west, is a sign that the U.S. doesn’t want Beijing to see this as a provocation.
One thing’s for sure. This is the last we’ll be hearing about the Kitty Hawk. Post-election, it’s going to sail away from Taiwan and to the U.S. for decommissioning.
* Photo: Getty Images