It is very easy to forget that under each and every person on this planet is a human being. Human beings despite their nationality, political leanings, beliefs, religions, and race are thinking feeling creatures. Sometimes because of what we hear and perceive other people to be, we ignore the fact that we are dealing with people, and people will always be people. They have families, loves, hates, biases — everything that makes human beings human. In USS Lassen’s encounters with the Chinese navy in the East and South China sea, this distinctly human characteristics are proven universal.
The IndiaTimes reports that, as USS Lassen punched through the 12 nautical mile limit of the Chinese-made islands in the Spratlys, a constant barrage of radio communications were received by the ship’s commander — Commander Robert Francis. “Hey, you are in Chinese waters. What is your intention?,” the radio buzzed over and over, the Commander said.
“Hey, you are in Chinese waters. What is your intention?”
To put things in perspective, according to Francis, since May of this year, USS Lassen has had about 50 “interactions” with Chinese military ships in the East and South China Sea. And experts say that China has dozens of military vessels deployed at any given time thus encounters with US warships are like to increase.
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However, Francis considers the encounters as normal. “Every day a U.S. ship is down here, we interact with the Chinese,” he says.
Ten days before the historic sail-by within six to seven nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratlys, a Chinese destroyer has shadowed USS Lassen. However, as ‘tense’ as we are likely to perceive such encounters to be, apparently not all interactions are strained — especially when things in the South China Sea grind to a boring depressing halt.
“Imagine months upon months of nothing but blue sea in a metal bucket full of sailors.”
According to Commander Francis, he called the Chinese vessel shadowing them and tried to engage the sailors in the other ship in “normal” conversation. The purpose of the call was “to show them … that we’re normal sailors, just like them, have families, just like them,” Francis adds.
USS Lassen: “Hey, what are you guys doing this Saturday? Oh, we got pizza and wings. What are you guys eating? Oh, we’re doing this. Hey, we’re planning for Halloween as well.”
Surprisingly the Chinese sailors in the other ship responded “cordially the entire time” and talked about their “families, where they’re from, and places they have visited.”
“[The Chinese sailors] were cordial the entire time… Talked about their families, where they’re from, and places they have visited.”
It’s very heartwarming to know that despite the intense media coverage on the historic sail-by, people will always be people. People will naturally be nice to one another.
When the time came for the Chinese ship to peel away from USS Lassen, the Chinese sailors said, ‘”Hey, we’re not going to be with you anymore. [We] wish you a pleasant voyage. Hope to see you again.”
Chinese sailors: “Hey, we’re not going to be with you anymore. [We] wish you a pleasant voyage. Hope to see you again.”
Francis ends his interview by saying, “It’s another day in the South China Sea. All of it is professional.”
With stories like this, we are reminded that despite our differences, we are human beings. When we peel away our thinly-veiled facades that separate us, our inner skins are revealed. When that happens, conflicts such as that of the South China Sea may cease to exist.