by Jim Emerson
China has been demanding the U.S. halt all reconnaissance flights over international waters near its border. China’s Defense Ministry told the Global Times newspaper, “We demand that the U.S. respect China’s sovereignty and security interests, and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations.” The only problem is that the U.S. surveillance flights have been operating outside of China’s sovereign territory.
Tensions have increased after a pair of Chinese fighters attempted to intercept an American U-2 flying over the Taiwan Strait, which is the waterway separating Taiwan from mainland China. The U-2 was over international waters and not in China’s airspace. In an effort to halt future surveillance flights, Chinascrambled two Su-27s to intercept the unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. During the intercept, one of the Su-27s violated Taiwan’s airspace.
In ground-controlled intercepts, as used by most oppressive regimes, the fighters wouldn’t be allowed to violate Taiwan’s airspace without specific orders. Taiwan launched a pair of F-16s to intercept the Su-27 once the lone Su-27 was aware of the F-16 it headed back to Chinese airspace.
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This marked the first time the Chinese crossed into Taiwan airspace since 1999, the last time we had a Democrat in the White House. Ending interceptors to track reconnaissance flights is a routine event. The most famous and tragic intercept occurred in 2001 when a Chinese F-8 collided with an American EP-3. This marked the first time an American asset was attacked by a Wal-Mart supplier. What is being ignored is that a Chinese warplane violated someone else’s sovereign airspace. Despite the rhetoric from Bernanke’s number one debt buyer, China did what it is accusing the U.S. of doing.
Regardless of China’s demands, the U.S. will continue surveillance flights.
China’s Su-27s are incapable of reaching an altitude that would pose an actual threat to American U-2s. And since China’s Air Defense didn’t arm or fire surface-to-air missiles, my analysis of this incident is that the Chinese were testing Taiwan’s response time against an airborne threat. The U-2 was a target of opportunity to conduct such a test.
Like Israel, Taiwan has the right to exist. Nevertheless, this means nothing to the Obama administration which has blocked the sale of F-16s and other weapon modernization programs to Taiwan because it would upset China.
There is no question that Obama’s weakness has emboldened China. The question now is where will China stop?
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This article originally appeared on CoachIsRight.com and is reprinted with permission.