News / Asia

Analysts: More US-China Military Cooperation Needed

Robert L. Thomas Jr. (C),  Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet talks with Chinese general Yuan Yubo (L) at a port in Qingdao, during the U.S. Seventh Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge  visit to Shandong province, China, Aug. 5, 2014.
Robert L. Thomas Jr. (C), Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet talks with Chinese general Yuan Yubo (L) at a port in Qingdao, during the U.S. Seventh Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge visit to Shandong province, China, Aug. 5, 2014.

A close encounter last week between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet shows the need for greater military cooperation and agreed upon rules of engagement between the two countries, analysts say.

The Pentagon said the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon was in international airspace, about 200 kilometers east of China's southern island of Hainan, when it was confronted by the Chinese jet last Tuesday.

The Shenyang J-11B fighter crossed beneath the U.S. plane three times and exposed its belly in an apparent attempt to show off its weapons load, according to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby. At one point, he said, the jet's wings came within nine meters of those of the U.S. plane.

Kirby called the Chinese pilot’s actions "aggressive" and "unprofessional" and said the Pentagon expressed to Beijing its “strong objection” with regards to the maneuver.

The Chinese Defense Ministry called the criticism “totally groundless.” In a statement, it insisted the pilot acted professionally and kept a safe distance. The statement said any blame for the incident lies with the American plane and demanded the U.S. stop conducting reconnaissance missions near China.

The incident was reminiscent of 2001, when a similar maneuver by a Chinese pilot resulted in a mid-air collision between a Chinese J-8 fighter jet and a U.S. Navy EP-3 spy plane. That crash killed the Chinese pilot and forced the U.S. plane to make an emergency landing on Hainan, prompting a major diplomatic crisis.

Risk of more mid-air encouters

Many defense analysts expect to see more dangerous mid-air encounters as China’s military grows stronger and becomes more uncomfortable with a U.S. military presence so close to its territory.

"China feels it has the rights of a certain strategic space around its borders. It doesn't fly planes close to the borders of the United States and so it feels, 'Well, why is it that we have American forces so close to us?'” said Kerry Brown, a former British diplomat in Beijing who now heads the University of Sydney's China Studies Center.

Brown said close encounters last like week’s are “incredibly dangerous,” not only for the pilots and other forces directly involved, but because the incidents could spiral out of control diplomatically. “That’s exactly the kind of scenario where you can see things totally escalating,” he said.

U.S. and Chinese officials have both made public calls for more military cooperation and dialogue in order to lessen tensions and increase understanding, and most say progress is being made on this front.

The most recent talks occurred this week, when the Pentagon said U.S. and Chinese officials met in Washington as part of long-planned discussions on air and sea behavior. U.S. officials told VOA that last week’s close call was discussed in the talks.

But Brown said that so far, such talks have not done enough.

“You have attempts at that kind of dialogue, but it’s not that structured. And that really needs to be in place so that each side understands where the red lines are. The problem at the moment is that there isn't a great deal of understanding on the Chinese side of where the American red lines are. And American defense officials might think that everyone's very, very clear on the Chinese side, but it's clear that there’s a communication issue,” he said.

Need to establish mutually accepted rules

Establishing mutually and internationally accepted rules of behavior is another way to reduce the chances of a significant escalation, said Australian National University Asia defense specialist John Blaxland.

"There needs to be established protocols. We've seen calls for this in the South China Sea. ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has been calling for a code of conduct arrangements for vessels at sea. I think the same goes for aircraft,” he said.

But there are questions about whether China is willing to respect international laws and customs when they conflict with its interests and historical claims. Blaxland suggests China’s provocative behavior may indicate that it wants to “rewrite the rules” that have been commonly agreed to internationally.

“Their approach has been really pretty aggressive and unfriendly toward a number of countries. It has not sought to engage on a consensus basis. It's trying to pick off the Philippines, it's tried to pick off Vietnam, and now it's trying to pick off individual aircraft, and we've seen that against U.S. vessels as well. This is a really combative approach, it's not an approach that attempts to find consensus through mutually recognized procedures," he said.

U.S. military officials and policymakers must also decide whether it is worth it to continue asserting American naval and air power so close to China’s shores, when it is clear that this will irritate Beijing and could lead to confrontation.

“Perhaps some concession can be made here (by the U.S.),” said Blaxland. “The other side here is that if you make that concession, will it lead to even greater concessions?”

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Patrick from: Ca
August 29, 2014 2:22 PM
Let us hope cooler heads prevail, I dislike Chinese oppressive behaviors, but we have problems here too, to much gap between rich and poor, and a continual squeezing of the middle class, large corporations moving off shore because our taxes are too high, and medicine that is way too expensive. I hope we can hold onto our freedoms, as it seems like more government control is the trend. If we need population control let's start with those trying to push such agendas, so the rest of us can figure how to get along.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs