The Chinese state propaganda outlet Global Times has published an incendiary column claiming that the Chinese public “really detest US reconnaissance” in Asia and “actually wanted” China to shoot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane dangerously intercepted over the weekend.
The Global Times called the Pentagon’s objection to the outrageous aerial move “ridiculous” and demanded the United States cease all intelligence operations in the region.
On Sunday, two Chinese fighter jets gave chase to an American reconnaissance aircraft over the international waters of the East China Sea, forcing the American plane to maneuver away from them rapidly. American officials with knowledge of the situation described the Chinese jets’ behavior as “unsafe,” while the Pentagon clarified that the American plane was conducting a “routine” mission.
“The ‘righteousness’ of the Pentagon is ridiculous,” the Times complained. “US military reconnaissance threatens China’s national security and an intercept by the Chinese navy is justified.”
The article goes on to praise the Chinese military for its “restraint,” suggesting that the will of the Chinese people would have been to see the incident turn deadly. “The public actually wanted the US reconnaissance plane to be shot down directly,” the article claims. “Of course the PLA would not do it, but the Chinese people really detest US reconnaissance, which is bound to have an impact on the response of the Chinese military.”
The article goes on to call the American intelligence mission a “robber act” and laments that the Chinese military has not attempted to conduct similar operations near San Diego.
The People’s Daily, another Chinese propaganda newspaper that often prints military news while taking a less belligerent tone on the day’s news than the Global Times, has not attacked the United States in such a manner. What it has done is print an article claiming that the reconnaissance plane was “flying over China’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the East China Sea” and not international waters. The EEZs of countries begin within 12 nautical miles of the shore. The American government has made clear that its aircraft was flying within international waters.
The Chinese Defense Ministry, meanwhile, claimed that the interception of the American plane was “legitimate, necessary and professional” and called on America to stop its own allegedly “unsafe, unprofessional and unfriendly” moves in the region.
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, refused to discuss details, though spokesman Lu Kang told reporters, “China is always committed to safeguarding overflight order and security over the sea and establishing military mutual trust with other countries to properly handle disputes. However, US military vessels and planes have long been carrying out frequent surveillance activities close to China’s coastal waters which poses a grave threat to China’s maritime and airspace security.”
The incident on Sunday is far from the only such move by Chinese military pilots in the region. In May, the Pentagon decried another “unprofessional” intercept of a U.S. Navy WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft in the East China Sea, with one Chinese plane doing a “barrel roll over the top of the American plane.” Last year, a Chinese fighter jet intercepted another American plane at a “high rate of speed as it closed in.” In that case, however, the Obama administration dismissed the incident as “a case of improper airmanship” and not a deliberate threatening move.