US urged to stop recon
China calls US close surveillance by military unnecessary risk to ties
China has once again urged the US to reduce and stop its close military surveillance along the Chinese coast as the two militaries are holding bilateral talks in Washington this week.
Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun said on Thursday that the so-called “interception incident” is invalid since the nature of this incident is the frequent and close-in reconnaissance activities by the US aircraft against China.
“So I think it should be rightly called ‘US aircraft close-in reconnaissance incident’,” Yang told a press briefing in Beijing.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Aug 22 that the US side has registered its strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept on Aug 19 conducted by an armed Chinese fighter jet against a US Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft in the South China Sea.
US officials have deliberately avoided discussing whether its long-term and high-frequency close-in reconnaissance missions conducted by its military planes and ships near the Chinese coast are provocative.
China has over the years called on the US to reduce and stop such activities and has regarded them as a threat to China’s national security.
Chinese military leaders have described the US reconnaissance, along with US arms sales to Taiwan and the US laws restricting military cooperation with China, as three major obstacles in improving bilateral military-to-military relations.
Yang said China has expressed its concerns to the US diplomatically through multiple channels. “Operationally, we have been strictly monitoring these reconnaissance activities,” he said.
The spokesman reminded the US that the location of the incident is 220 km from China’s Hainan Island and not 220 km from Hawaii and certainly not 220 km from Florida.
“The rights and wrongs of the case are very clear,” he said. Several Chinese military bases are located in Hainan Island, including its advanced submarine base.
Yang emphasized that the US has been focusing on technical issues such as the distance during an encounter, but has rather ignored the fact that the US has been maintaining a high frequency of close-in reconnaissance activities against China.
He described such activities as “not only damaging China’s security interest but also damaging the strategic trust and bilateral relationship between China and the United States”.
Such activities are the very root cause which could possibly lead to undesirable incidents, according to Yang.
He called it contradictory that while the US expresses its willingness to deepen a military-to-military relationship with China, it is reluctant to give up its frequent closein reconnaissance activities against China.
“We believe that the US side should step up to the strategic height of building a new mode of major country relationship between China and the US and the new model of military-to-military relationship and take concrete steps to decrease the close-in reconnaissance activities against China towards a complete stop, so that a favorable atmosphere for further developing our military-to-military relationship can be created and properly maintained,” he said.
According to Yang, when the PLA has conducted weapons tests, exercises and training in related airspace and maritime areas in the past, the US side often showed up without being invited or even broke into China’s exercise or training zones which had been announced in advance.
“These behaviors of US military ships and aircraft could easily cause misperception and miscalculation or even air or sea accidents,” Yang said.
Some Chinese experts believe that China should conduct similar kinds of reconnaissance missions along the US coast in order to demonstrate to the US how offensive such activities can be.
“As to what missions PLA ships and aircraft will take in the future, it will be decided based on various factors,” Yang said.
He said the Aug 25-29 meetings in Washington between military officials of the two countries are part of the measures to implement the consensus between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama when they met in Sunnylands, California, in June last year. Talks will primarily focus on establishing the rules of behavior for air and sea military activities on the high seas.
Yang dismissed US State Department spokeswoman Jen Paski’s comment that the US operated in a transparent manner. He said the US has never notified China of its reconnaissance missions, and said even if a notification was made, the nature of a wrong behavior would still not be changed.
President Obama is expected to visit China on Nov 12 after attending the APEC leaders’ summit in Beijing for two days, when a host of bilateral issues, including the reconnaissance along China’s coast, will come up.
Robert Wang, US Senior Official for APEC, told reporters on Wednesday that the US believes the US side would prefer smaller meetings where issues can be discussed in a more personal way.
“So we have quite a number of issues between the US and China, and so far I think we’ve been able to manage them” Wang said.
He said that the two sides need to expand their cooperation as much as possible. “And hopefully, the positive side will, in the long term, win out,” Wang said.