China says it tracked
US bomber flights through zone
A US Air Force B-52 aircraft
takes part in the opening of the III Aeronautical Fair in Medellin, Colombia, on
June 28, 2006. The US flew two B-52s through China¡¦s newly declared air defense
identification zone in the East China Sea on Tuesday.
China yesterday said it let two US B-52
bombers fly unhindered through its newly declared air defense zone in the East
China Sea on Tuesday, despite its earlier threat to take defensive measures
against unidentified foreign aircraft.
The US flights, which tested the Chinese zone for the first time since it was
declared on Saturday, raised questions about Beijing¡¦s determination to enforce
its requirement that foreign aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese
instructions. China¡¦s lack of any action suggested that it was merely playing
out a diplomatic game to establish ownership over the area rather than provoke
an international incident.
The flights followed days of angry rhetoric and accusations over Beijing¡¦s move,
designed to assert Chinese claims to a group of uninhabited islands controlled
The US and Japan have said they do not acknowledge the zone, and Taiwan and
South Korea have also rejected it.
A Chinese Ministry of National Defense statement said the US planes were
detected and monitored as they flew through the area for 2 hours and 22 minutes.
It said all aircraft flying through the zone would be monitored and that ¡§China
has the capability to exercise effective control over the relevant airspace.¡¨
Asked repeatedly about the incident at a regularly scheduled briefing, Chinese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang (¯³è) said it had been handled
according to procedures laid out in the Saturday statement, but offered no
¡§Different situations will be dealt with according to that statement,¡¨ Qin said.
The US, which has hundreds of military aircraft based in the region, described
the flights as a training mission unrelated to China¡¦s announcement of the zone.
US officials said the two unarmed B-52 bombers took off from their home base in
Guam around midday and were in the zone that encompasses the disputed islands
for less than an hour before returning to their base, adding that the aircraft
encountered no problems.
The bomber flights came after US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said
China¡¦s move appeared to be an attempt to change the status quo in the East
¡§This will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation,
confrontation and accidents,¡¨ she told reporters.
Beijing¡¦s move fits a pattern of putting teeth behind its territorial claims and
is seen as potentially leading to dangerous encounters depending on how
vigorously China enforces it ¡X and how cautious it is when intercepting aircraft
from Japan, the US and other countries.
Chinese reaction to the US bomber flights was predictably angry, with some
recalling the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and a US surveillance
plane in international airspace off China¡¦s southeastern coast ¡X the kind of
accident some fear China¡¦s new policy could make more likely.
The Chinese pilot, Wang Wei (¤ý°¶), was killed in the crash and the US crew forced
to make a landing on Hainan island, where they were held for 10 days and
repeatedly interrogated before being released.
¡§Let¡¦s not repeat the humiliation of Wang Wei. Make good preparations to
counterattack,¡¨ wrote Zheng Daojin (¾G¹DÀA), a reporter with Xinhua news agency on
his Weibo microblog.
Others criticized the government¡¦s handling of what they termed a battle of
psychological pressure and international public opinion.
¡§China is terrible at telling its side of the story. The silent one is the loser
so why don¡¦t they better explain our response to the American bomber flight,¡¨
wrote Hu Xijin (J¿ü¶i), editor of the state-run Global Times, on his blog.
Chinese academics, who often serve as ad-hoc government spokesmen, criticized
Tuesday¡¦s flights as a crude show of force and said Beijing was not looking for
¡§It¡¦s not that China didn¡¦t want to enforce its demands, but how do you expect
China to react?¡¨ said Zhu Feng (¦¶¾W), an international security expert at Peking