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China Is Right About the Spy Plane Incident
By David Ewing
I was in China the day that the spy plane incident occurred. I returned home on April 12, 2001, the same day that the spy crew left China for Guam for their first debriefing by American military intelligence specialists.
I spoke to dozens of Chinese people about the incident just after it happened: business people, local political leaders, workers, family and friends. There was no hostility toward the American people, but everyone was concerned about the fate of the Chinese pilot, Wang Wei, and people were clearly angry about the unprovoked aggressive military posture the United States takes toward China. In my view, China is right to blame the United States for the loss of life and the violation of China's sovereignty.
When I returned home, I was frankly surprised by the hostile spin the American press has put on the incident. The view from Asia is very different. In an article in the The Straits Times, April 10, 2001, an American writer, Llewellyn Rockwell Jr., made the following points:
1. The collision between the U.S. spy plane and the Chinese jet occurred along China's border. The United States claims it was in 'international airspace,' but backs up this claim with a rule arrived at unilaterally by the U.S. government and accepted by no one else. The United States makes up rules to justify its behavior - rules that it does not accept if they are applied against its territory.
2. The U.S. plane was a spy plane. It was not a commercial airliner. It is preposterous for the United States to say that a spy plane landing in Chinese territory is somehow sovereign property. The international law on this subject applies to civil aviation.
3. The U.S. spy plane landed at a Chinese military airport. The U.S. crew did not ask for permission to do so. Imagine what the United States would do if a Chinese spy plane were zipping around outside Virginia, became entangled with American jets and then landed at a U.S. base. The United States would not say: "Sorry, guys, about interrupting your spy mission. Thanks for visiting our military base and come back soon."
4. The Chinese pilot is presumably dead. The U.S. crew is not. Also dead are the three Chinese journalists who were killed when the United States bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. No American soldiers died in that incident either.
The body count is beginning to mount and it is no surprise that at some point the Chinese will decide they are not going to take it any more. How long can one country be subjected to murderous attacks from the United States before it begins to complain? But if China does complain, the United States decries this as 'nationalism.'
5. There is no mystery about how the United States treats such cases. In 1976, a Soviet MiG carrying a defector landed in Japan. The Soviets demanded the plane back. The United States complied after taking the entire jet apart. It was sent back to Moscow in packing crates. On another occasion in the 70s, the United States tried secretly to raise a Soviet submarine from the ocean.
Washington uses any means possible to obtain military equipment from potentially hostile nations. Turnabout is fair play.
6. The U.S. spy plane was not an innocent victim. No one can say for sure how the collision occurred, but it seems obvious that the American version of events - a spy plane minding its own business gets bumped by a Chinese jet - is not true.
If it turns out that the United States is wholly to blame, it would not be the first time. In 1998, a U.S. military jet severed the cable of a ski-resort gondola in Italy, causing it to plunge 90 meters to the ground and killing all 20 people inside.
And just recently, showoffs cruising the world in a submarine sank a Japanese boat, killing nine, four of whom were 17-year-olds.
7. The United States has fulminated for years about supposed spying by China against the United States. The Cox Report never went so far as to accuse China of fiying spy planes around U.S. borders. But it turns out that the United States regards such activity as routine and justifiable, if directed against other countries.
The message is obvious: the United States can do whatever it wants with its military, but believes itself exempt from the very laws it wants to apply to others. This attitude engenders hatred around the world.
I think China has shown enormous restraint over what really amounts to an attack on its territory. The spy fiights must end now. And the United States must stop arming Taiwan. The Shanghai Accord between the United States and the People's Republic of China recognizes Taiwan as a part of China. It is a violation of this treaty for the United States to ship any arms to Taiwan.
In the negotiations over the spy plane incident, the United States has used the threat of a big new shipment of Aegis Destroyers to Taiwan as a bargaining chip. This is the wrong time for the United States to threaten China. The people I spoke to in China seemed willing to accept any kind of sanction that the United States cares to impose in order to protect their freedom and independence. I doubt that future military threats along their border, or in Taiwan, are likely to shake China's resolve.
Dave Ewing is a lawyer from San Francisco who works with the US-China Peoples' Friendship Assocation (USCPFA).