China won’t al­low U.S. to check out fighter jet; grants vis­its to two bases

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Bill Gertz

China’s mil­i­tar y re­cently turned down a re­quest by the United States to see the new Chi­nese J-10 fighter but al­lowed vis­its to two op­er­a­tional fighter bases, the com­man­der of Pa­cific Air Forces said Aug. 13.

Gen. Paul V. Hester also told re­porters that China con­tin­ues to con­duct ae­rial jet in­ter­cepts of pa­trolling U.S. sur­veil­lance air­craft near Chi­nese coast, but the fight­ers stayed at safe dis­tances to avoid col­li­sions like the one that took place in 2001.

Gen. Hester, who vis­ited China for sev­eral days be­gin­ning July 23, said China con­tin­ues to hide much of its mil­i­tary buildup and will not an­swer ques­tions about the pace and scope of the force mod­ern­iza­tion, prompt­ing con­cerns for the United States.

“There’s still a lot of un­knowns and unan­swered ques­tions, if you will. As you have con­ver­sa­tions with them, about where are you go­ing in terms of what is your vi­sion,” he said in a tele­phone press con­fer­ence with re­por ters. “There is cer­tainly not much in the way of solid an­swers to that ques­tion of what is vi­sion for your mil­i­tary and where will it lead you.”

The four-star gen­eral also said two B-2 bombers last week flew to Guam on a sim­u­lated at­tack mis­sion and were on their way back to White­man Air Force Base in Mis­souri. The de­ploy­ment gave rise to some spec­u­la­tion among U.S. of­fi­cials that the bombers could be used in raids against al Qaeda tar­gets in Pak­istan.

Guam is a ma­jor U.S. mil­i­tary base in the west­ern Pa­cific that U.S. of­fi­cials say plays a key role in the new U.S. “hedge” strat­egy of be­ing ready to con­front China in the fu­ture.

“We de­ploy peo­ple on mis­sions all the time, es­pe­cially bombers, on long-range prac­tice strike mis­sions, all the time,” Gen. Hester said. “And th­ese bombers [that] flew out of here are headed back home.”

The April 2001 col­li­sion be­tween a Chi­nese J-7 jet and a U.S. EP-3 sur­veil­lance air­craft near the coast of south­ern China led to the loss of a Chi­nese pilot and the near loss of the crew of 23 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel, who made an emer­gency land­ing on Hainan is­land and were im­pris­oned by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

They were re­leased 11 days later.

The in­ci­dent was the first cri­sis of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and led to a cut­off of mil­i­tary ex­changes. In re­cent months, the U.S. mil­i­tary has stepped up ex­changes with China in an ef­fort to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween the two mil­i­taries.

Gen. Hester said the Chi­nese in­ter­cepts of U.S. sur­veil­lance air­craft “have all been pro­fes­sion­ally done.”

“They have run their in­ter­cepts in ac­cor­dance with fairly clear rules of en­gage­ment that have been es­tab­lished world­wide by those who feel they are de­fend­ing their coast­line by es­cort­ing for­eign vis­i­tors,” he said.

Gen. Hester said his re­cent visit was a step to­ward prompt­ing the Chi­nese mil­i­tary to be more open. He vis­ited the Chi­nese air force com­mand col­lege in Bei­jing and trav­eled to Nan­jing, in south­east­ern China and vis­ited a re­gional air com­mand cen­ter.

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