China and the United States held a working group meeting this week to discuss a military security code of conduct covering international waters and airspace, aiming to set up a China-US military security code of conduct under the consensus reached between China and the U.S. in July.
Some days before the meeting, a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane had a close encounter with a Chinese navy fighter jet. The Chinese fighter conducted routine identification and verification work on Aug. 19 2014, as US Navy P-3 and P-8 planes were conducting reconnaissance about 220 kilometers east of Hainan Island.
Washington attempted to shift responsibility for this incident to the Chinese government on the basis of technicalities, including the distance of the encounter. However, taking into consideration the whole process of this incident, including the maneuvers of the Chinese pilot, no one will regard the U.S. reconnaissance as a friendly conduct. Any substantial country, including China, will take measures to protect its international waters and to identify aggressive fighters.
Since a fighter jet from China crashed into an American signals intelligence aircraft in international airspace in 2001, China has been clearly aware that it is large-scale and high-frequency reconnaissance from the U.S. that imperils China-US military security and leads to undesirable incidents.
U.S. President Barack Obama is investing more into his rebalancing strategy for the Asia-Pacific region, and this is causing concern. The White House and the Pentagon repeatedly claim that U.S. does not regard China as a rival and will not take restrictive measures towards China. However, the facts demonstrate that the U.S. conducts frequent reconnaissance over the exclusive economic zone of China. These acts not only violate Sino-U.S. mutual trust but also damage the U.S. international reputation.
The U.S. treats China as an uncertainty and a potential competitor in terms of its leadership in Asia. Therefore, the U.S. “return to Asia” strategy is highly military-oriented. This is a significant reason behind its frequent reconnaissance on China.
The U.S. intends to show its Asian allies that it can maintain balance in the Asia-Pacific region. However, its actions are not conducive to improving mutual trust since they are aggressive towards China, they constrain Sino-U.S. cooperation, they add complexity to the regional situation, and they undermine U.S. interests in consequence.
To prevent any further “close encounters”, the U.S. should abide by International Law and international practices and respect the countries involved. To improve mutual trust between U.S. and China, we should make a priority of activities that are beneficial to the development of Sino-U.S. Relationships, and avoid those which are damaging.
The Sino-U.S. military relationship is a significant element of the overall Sino-U.S. relationship. China and the U.S. should develop a new type of military relationship under the framework of building the new power relationship. Airspace encounters over the South China Sea must not become a norm.
The article is edited and translated from《维护中美关系，需要做好加减法（钟声）》, source: People's Daily