Monday, March 23, 2009 | 8:30 AM EDT - 9:30 AM EDT

On March 8, sixty miles off of Hainan Island, an American surveillance ship, the USNS Impeccable, and five Chinese ships were involved in what Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair called the “most serious” military dispute between United States and China since the April, 2001 EP-3 incident. The United States protested the action and China responded that it acted lawfully; while there has been much discussion among security and defense specialists on both sides, senior American and Chinese officials, particularly Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Clinton – who were meeting in Washington just a few days after the incident – played down the tensions, stressing instead that both sides need to find ways to prevent recurrences. On March 23, 2009, the National Committee held an hour-long tele-conference for forty participants with National Committee members Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, USN (Ret.), and Dr. David M. Finkelstein, who offered expert perspectives on the context of the incident, the factors that may have contributed to it and its potential repercussions for U.S.-China relations. An audio recording of the discussion, which was moderated by National Committee president Stephen Orlins, can be found on this page. Both speakers are vice presidents at CNA (Center for Naval Analyses) a Washington, D.C. area non-profit research and analysis company. Admiral McDevitt is also the head of CNA-Strategic Studies. He was the director of the East Asia Policy Office for the Secretary of Defense during the first Bush administration, director for strategy, war plans and policy at CINCPAC, and his hands-on experience includes command of a minesweeper, a destroyer, a destroyer squadron, and an aircraft carrier battle group. Dr. Finkelstein heads CNA-China Studies. A retired U.S. Army officer, he held command and staff positions at the platoon, company, battalion, and Major Army Command levels. He also held significant China-related positions at the Pentagon as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addition to serving on the faculty at West Point, from which he graduated and where he taught Chinese history. A few days before our call, CCTV-7’s program “Defense Review Week” also had two defense experts discuss the incident and its potential influence on Sino-American relations. A synopsis of the discussion is available as a PDF on this page.

Politics & Foreign Relations