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Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum


[email protected]

May 31, 2023

US-China midair encounter last week certainly was dangerous, but it is not unexpected. However, Secretary Blinken might have missed the point by calling it “an example of why the two powers must have ‘regular, open lines of communication.” From China’s perspective, if it is really a crisis, Xi and Biden should talk, and the communication line is always open. Otherwise, lower-level communications or meetings would happen only when they serve China’s purposes.

Secretary Blinken cancelled a scheduled visit to Beijing right after the “silly” balloon incident quoting President Biden. But for China this silly balloon incident may not be officially over yet. Defense Ministers’ meeting will not happen because China’s Defense Minister, Gen. Li, is on the US sanction list.

There is one detail about the latest aircrafts close encounter that the US media did NOT cover. US media portrayed the encounter, based on information released by the US government, as these two military aircrafts suddenly flew closely in a vast ocean space for no reason. Or it implied that the PLA jet fighter just provocatively showed up from nowhere. It turned out that the US “RC-135, which is used to gather radio communications and other electronic intelligence, was flying in international airspace” which was just over “a routine exercise by the Shandong aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea.”

Of course, the US Indo-Pacific Command and China’s PLA Southern Theater Command both tracked and monitored the RC-135 through its entire course. We could be assured that both nations’ highest commands were also monitoring the encounter closely. No surprises!

U.S. scolds China for refusing to talk after midair military encounter

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called last week’s incident over the South China Sea ‘dangerous’ and an example of why the two powers must have ‘regular, open lines of communication.’

By Dan Lamothe and  Missy Ryan Updated May 31, 2023 at 12:16 p.m.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday denounced China’s apparent refusal to meet with senior Pentagon leaders after an incident U.S. officials have described as an “unnecessarily aggressive” encounter between military aircraft over the South China Sea last week.

Video released Tuesday by the U.S. military depicts a twin-engine J-16 Shenyang fighter jet crossing what appears to be several dozen feet in front of an Air Force RC-135 surveillance plane. The 30-second clip, recorded Friday from within the American aircraft’s cockpit, shows the crew being bounced around as they fly through the Shenyang’s wake.

Blinken, speaking during a visit to Sweden, said the “dangerous” incident “only underscores why it is so important that we have regular, open lines of communication, including by the way between our defense ministers,” making reference to a Wall Street Journal report that China had rebuffed a request from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with his Chinese counterpart during a security summit in Singapore.

“The most dangerous thing is not to communicate and, as a result, to have a misunderstanding and miscommunication,” Blinken said. “While we have a real competition with China, we also want to make sure that doesn’t veer into … conflict.”

The RC-135, which is used to gather radio communications and other electronic intelligence, was flying in international airspace, officials with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement released in tandem with the video. The United States, they said, will continue to fly, sail and operate safely “wherever international law allows.”

US recon aircraft spies on Chinese aircraft carrier, professionally dealt with by PLA: PLA Southern Theater Command spokesperson

Global Times: By  Liu Xuanzun and Fan Wei Published: May 31, 2023 09:03 PM

The US reconnaissance aircraft that was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet was spying on and disturbing a routine exercise by the Shandong aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea, and the US’ accusation calling the Chinese interception “unprofessional” is a false countercharge as the US is the one to blame, experts said on Wednesday.

In a routine exercise by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Flotilla 17 in the South China Sea on Friday, a US military RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft intentionally intruded into the training area for reconnaissance and disturbance, leading the PLA Southern Theater Command to organize aerial forces to track and monitor it through its entire course, with maneuvers in a professional manner and in accordance with law and regulations, said Senior Colonel Zhang Nandong, a spokesperson at the PLA Southern Theater Command, in a statement.

The Flotilla 17 represents the Shandong aircraft carrier group, with the aircraft carrier Shandong carrying the hull number 17. Later on Saturday, the carrier group sailed north from the South China Sea through the Taiwan Straits, according to the defense authority on the island of Taiwan.

The US statement didn’t mention details including the location of the incident or the mission of the US spy plane on the PLA Navy flotilla.

In addition, according to open-source intelligence, the US spy plane also flew to less than 50 kilometers away from Jieyang, South China’s Guangdong Province, for close-in reconnaissance, the Global Times learned from Chinese technology and intelligence company MizarVision on Wednesday.

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