Hindu Vivek Kendra
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China, US heading towards new Cold War?

China, US heading towards new Cold War?

Author: Harvey B Stockwin
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 2, 2001

China and the United States seem to be slowly heading towards an intensified Cold War. China has denied access to American citizens and residents, some of whom are accused of spying, and has declined to give the US access to its spy plane, which was forced to land in the southern island of Hainan on Sunday morning.

The slow, propeller-driven, four-engine US Navy reconnaissance E-P3 was forced to land in Hainan after being damaged when it was intercepted by two Chinese F-8 jets in international air space over the South China Sea.

One of the F-8s (roughly equivalent to an MIG-21) collided with the slow American plane and crashed with the apparent loss of the pilot. The Chinese claim that the damage was done when the E-P3 veered towards the jet and damaged it.

This story seems implausible given that the F-8s were doing the intercepting, and are in any case much faster aircraft.

As the US commander-in-chief Pacific (CINPAC), Admiral Dennis Blair, was quick to point out, the onus lies on faster aircraft to stay out of the way of a slower one when an interception is taking place.

But what actually happened in the aerial incident remains a mystery since China continues to hold the crew incommunicado on Hainan. US military attaches flew to Hainan today from the embassy in Beijing but have so far been denied access to the crew and the plane.

Indicating American frustration with the lack of Chinese cooperation, US Ambassador Joseph Prueher (also a former CINPAC) spoke to the press in Beijing saying that the Chinese refusal to grant access to the crew and aircraft was "inexplicable and unacceptable".

Significantly, this is not an isolated incident, but the logical culmination of a trend, as Chinese jets have adopted ever more aggressive tactics when intercepting reconnaissance aircraft in international air space off the Chinese coast. The Americans have complained about but not publicised these incidents.

"The intercepts by Chinese fighters over the last couple of months have become more aggressive, to the point that we felt that they were endangering the safety of Chinese and American aircraft," Admiral Blair said in Hawaii.

Flights by US reconnaissance planes off the coast of China have been routine since the 1960s. The downed E-P3 started its 11 or 12 hour flight from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

There are some indications that the Chinese may be about to insist that all the air space above the South China Sea belongs to China, in line with its repeated insistence that the whole of the South China Sea is Chinese territorial waters.

If Beijing was to insist that the US accept this position as the price for the release of its aircraft, it would be certain to make the new Cold War even more frigid.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have also been infuriating the Americans by refusing consular access to US citizens and US residents imprisoned or detained in China. In four, maybe five, such recent cases, all the Americans affected were American-Chinese.

In another sign of fast deteriorating relations, on Monday there were many fiercely anti-American comments to be read in Chinese Internet chat rooms, with some advocating that the 24 members of the E-P3 crew be executed. These comments reflect an official policy, whereby anti-American sentiments are acceptable and even encouraged, whereas pro-American comments are considered subversive.

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