|Montréal, 12 mai 2001 / No 83||
by Ralph Maddocks
That line from Kipling came to mind the other day when reflecting upon the Chinese fighter plane which, just before Easter, struck a US electronic intelligence plane allegedly in International waters. Since the Chinese jet was able to fly at twice the speed of the reconnaissance plane it is highly unlikely that the reverse occurred. For unexplained reasons, rather than ditching in the sea the pilot landed the plane on Hainan Island where its inner workings appear to have been well and truly examined by curious and presumably delighted Chinese military people.
After some days of intense diplomatic activity, mainly about finding the
appropriate formula for apologizing, the crew were released and returned
home to a hero's welcome. A peculiar American habit considering the somewhat
questionable circumstances under which the incident took place.
Perhaps the man most disappointed by the agreement to return those aircrew to the USA was Jesse Jackson. It will be recalled that he was just getting ready to focus the spotlight on himself – perhaps to remove the stigma of illegitimate parenthood – when the Chinese decided to accept the formulation of the US apology. Could this become the foundation of a new
Not too long ago, as one wag reported, the
However, while commerce may be the glue that binds nations together in peace, one cannot ignore the real reason why the EP-3E surveillance aircraft was flying along the coast of China. One of the plane's activities was the gathering of e-lint related to an impending underground nuclear test at the Lop Nor testing facility in western Xinjiang province. Earlier, US spy satellite photographs had shown some activity related to nuclear testing at a location on the testing site. One US official said that the underground blast could be another in a series of
The last time that China conducted any large-scale nuclear tests was in 1996, the year it agreed to the international nuclear test ban known as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. At that time, US intelligence agencies believed the tests to be the first ones using a small warhead thought to be based on the design of the W-88, then the United States' most advanced small nuclear warhead, which had presumably been obtained by espionage. Although China signed the treaty, which banned all underground nuclear blasts, China said when it signed that
It is known also that, several years ago, agents from Beijing purchased special nuclear containment equipment from Russia. This action confirmed US suspicions about the secret Chinese nuclear testing program since the special equipment they obtained is known to mask the seismic signature of a nuclear explosion. Explosions such as the small one set off by China in June 1999, just days before a US diplomat delivered an apology to Beijing for the allegedly mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The timing of that test, which also took place at Lop Nor, was seen as an intentional signal from Beijing, which had cut off all military contacts with the United States and had begun vitriolic attacks on the United States through its government-controlled press.
Not fully in control
The plane's secondary objective was to keep track of activity at the missile sites aimed at Taiwan. China's known opposition to the Bush administration's plans for arms sales to Taiwan and to its plans for deployment of a national missile defence system, has engaged it in a concerted effort to influence US policies, according to defence and intelligence officials. One US defence official said the testing activity at this time is a sign that China's leader, President Jiang Zemin, may not be fully in control.
Regarding the absence of the Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who did not return from his trip to South America and Cuba to oversee the way the crisis was handled. One explanation was that
This contrasts with the way the US president dealt with the problem. Presumably, after someone had explained to him where China was, President Bush simply gave the required overall direction and allowed US diplomats to deal with the details. One such detail is the fact that the Americans never sent a letter to China in anything but their own unmistakable version of the English language so that the required form of the word
The EP-3E conducts signals intelligence operations aimed at collecting large amounts of communications and other electronic signals. The aircraft's sensitive equipment is capable of picking up communications thousands of miles inland, including any signals from Lop Nor. The US intelligence community also uses RC-135 reconnaissance flights and spy satellites to collect intelligence as well as using
As noted above, China has tested its missiles and nuclear weapons to use them as political signals to the United States and they are currently engaged in a build-up of major strategic weapons. It is known that last year, they conducted two flight tests of a new mobile long-range missile known as the DF-31. Intelligence reports indicate that China is now building a longer-range missile known as the DF-41 and a new class of ballistic missile submarine to be equipped with a naval version of the DF-31.
A war in the cards?
China's continued testing of missiles, both medium and long range is all that more threatening now that they have new bases in Panama and the Bahamas. Such close proximity will allow the Chinese to strike most US cities with nuclear weapons, with little warning. Some informed Americans such as the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and advisor to seven US presidents, Admiral Thomas Moorer, are of the opinion that a war with China is likely within the next two or three years.
China's military build-up, the rhetoric about Taiwan, its use of illegal immigrants and their arming of guerrillas in Central America are all part and parcel of a potential challenge to the US. The taking of the aircrew as hostage gave the Chinese an opportunity to test President Bush's resolve and at the same time discover just how much the Americans knew about the status of their nuclear testing program and their missile sites. It was certainly a lot less expensive than trying to infiltrate a bunch of Chinese spies into Los Alamos.
In what must be an almost perfect example of the law of unintended consequences, American defence and aircraft firms won contracts in the late 1980s and 1990s to upgrade Chinese F-8II fighter jets of the type used to intercept the EP-3E aircraft. Northrup Grumman, a leading US military aircraft maker, provided avionics upgrades for the F-8II – one of China's first modern, indigenously built fighters – under a
In 1995, following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of Chinese students by People's Liberation Army troops, the New American magazine reported that
When President Bush spoke a couple of weeks ago of defending democratic Taiwan against communist China, many were unhappy with his statement. Perhaps they were afraid that their sons will be drafted and sent to fight on some distant island. But, it cannot be forgotten that in East Asia the US has little choice but to deal with communist countries. Countries whose leaders are pledged to destroy capitalism.
To think that Beijing will stop with incorporating Taiwan into its bosom and then be satisfied, is foolish. Those who have forgotten the lessons of Mr Hitler and his final demands will learn another painful lesson, or at least the children of their unwitting electorate will learn it. The communists will continue to devour their neighbors until the Pacific Ocean is essentially a Chinese lake. Later – why else have they positioned themselves at the Panama Canal – they will move into the Western Hemisphere with their troops and their missiles.
Deaths at home
Those who do not understand Chinese ambitions, or the communist mind, have much to learn.
Other critics see American defence policy as defending America to the last
foreigner, since their general policy has always been to defend their country
at a distance. Up until now this has worked quite well, but the next time
it will not be noisy little Cuba threatening the US with some short range
missiles, it will be the huge Chinese army with its somewhat larger and
more powerful missile forces knocking at the door.
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