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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 65/No.15April 16, 2001

Defend China's sovereignty, end Washington's threats!
(lead article)
Photo - see caption below Photo - see caption below
Photo shows damage to U.S. spy plane after collision with Chinese jet whose pilot is presumed dead. Washington refused to apologize for its violation of China's sovereignty and arrogantly demanded immediate return of the plane and its crew. Map shows site of collision over an area China has declared an economic zone, requiring permission for foreign military overflights.
By threatening China and demanding it immediately return U.S. military personnel and a spy plane that landed in the country without authorization after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet, Washington "has displayed an arrogant air, used lame arguments, confounded right and wrong, and made groundless accusations," said Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan April 4.

The U.S. government has issued repeated threats of diplomatic and economic reprisals against China if it does not comply with its dictates and "is keeping three warships in the area to maintain pressure on Beijing," the International Herald Tribune reported April 4.

The April 1 collision of the U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II spy plane with the Chinese aircraft has heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. The Chinese government says it has repeatedly protested what are routine surveillance missions by U.S. warplanes. U.S. Navy officials say the spy planes make several flights a month over the South China Sea, often to monitor Chinese naval activities.

Other moves by Washington to militarily threaten the Chinese workers state include the arming of Taiwan, where U.S. president George Bush is expected to make a decision soon on whether to sell destroyers equipped with an antimissile system to Taiwan. Not only do the Chinese people consider this a violation of their sovereignty because Taiwan is part of their country, but the destroyers could be used as part of a U.S.-designed "theater missile defense" aimed at China (see article page 11).

Washington has stepped up its spy patrols off the Chinese coast in recent years, running reconnaissance operations which monitor radar signals, electronic communications, and the activities of Chinese shore-based units and ships. The U.S. government, however, "does not tolerate such close surveillance of United States territory," the Times noted.

"The United States must stop these types of flights in the airspace of China's coastal areas," said Chinese president Jiang Zemin. "Only this will avoid a repeat of this type of incident."

At an April 3 news conference in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao gave a detailed account of the collision. The U.S. reconnaissance plane took off from the U.S. Kadena air base in Okinawa, Japan, April 1 and was picked up by Chinese radar near the country's airspace, he said. One of two Chinese F-8 fighter jets that flew up to intercept the plane was hit after the U.S. plane suddenly veered toward the jets and headed toward China. One of the propellers of the U.S. plane hit the F-8 jet flown by navy pilot Wang Wei, who lost control and ejected before it crashed. Wei is presumed dead.

When the other Chinese jet returned to the Lingshui air base on the Chinese island of Hainan, the damaged U.S. spy plane followed it and also landed.

"The United States should take full responsibility, make an apology to the Chinese government and people, and give us an explanation of its actions," said Zhu. He said the air base in Hainan received no notification of an imminent emergency landing. "This was not a civilian plane but a military plane that entered without permission, violating international and Chinese law."  
'Sovereign immune status'
U.S. government officials claim the spy plane has "sovereign immune status" similar to an embassy, which prohibits Chinese authorities from entering the aircraft without permission. The U.S. flight, however, entered China's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, violating the United Nations Convention on Maritime Law, which bars military aircraft from flying over the territory of another country without approval.

"If this plane is sovereign American territory, how did it land in China?" said Zhu. He said China has the right to detain and question the U.S. crew as part of its investigation. "This is the right of any sovereign country."

The Bush administration has refused to apologize for the collision and a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, has stated that surveillance flights off China's coast will continue. "The United States government doesn't understand the reason for an apology," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to reporters April 4. "Our airplane was operating in international airspace and [the crew] did nothing wrong."

Washington's aggressive stance has emboldened rightists to call for military action against China. National Review columnist John Derbyshire declared, "That plane should be destroyed without any regard whatsoever to Chinese sensitivities, or indeed lives and property.... Let's show these gangsters what a real violation of Chinese air space looks like."

Anger over the incident has mounted among Chinese working people and youth who compared the loss of the pilot with the death of three Chinese journalists after U.S. warplanes bombed the country's embassy in Belgrade two years ago. "The boys at our school are quite upset," said Bo Liu, a graduate student in Chengdu. "All of us draw a straight line between Hainan and Belgrade."

"China simply cannot agree that the United States has the legitimate right to spy on us, and no other country could agree to that either," said Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Relations at Quinghua University in Beijing. "How can the United States say that 'we have a right to spy on you, but you don't have a right to enter a plane that landed on your territory without official agreement?' "

On the day of the collision, the government of north Korea condemned the U.S. spy flights in the region. "The U.S. imperialists committed over 180 cases of aerial espionage against North Korea in March," said a dispatch from the Korean Central News Agency. "Involved in them were strategic and tactical reconnaissance planes and commanding planes with various missions deployed in their overseas bases and South Korea."

Much of Washington's military presence in the region is based in Japan where 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed. Opposition has been growing against the U.S. military force in Okinawa where the spy plane that collided in Chinese territory flew from.
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