US to continue spy flights after jets 'pursued' by China over Taiwan
Washington on Tuesday insisted it would continue spy flights over the Taiwan Strait after Chinese jets reportedly chased a US reconnaissance...
Washington on Tuesday insisted it would continue spy flights over the Taiwan Strait after Chinese jets reportedly chased a US reconnaissance plane into Taiwanese airspace.
Taiwan's defence ministry said it sent two F-16 fighters to intercept the Chinese Sukhoi-27 jets near the central line across the 113-mile wide Strait in late June, the first such incursion for 12 years.
The ministry said that the two Chinese jets quickly turned around. A spokesman added that he believed the incident was "an accident" and that Taiwan had been "in full control" of the situation.
China has long objected to US reconnaissance of its coastline, especially since a US spy plane and a People's Liberation Army jet collided in 2001 near Hainan island, killing the Chinese pilot. The crew of the US plane was detained for 11 days in a major diplomatic row.
Adm Mike Mullen, the top US military official, said: "We won't be deterred from flying in international airspace. The Chinese would see us move out of there. We're not going to do that, from my perspective. These reconnaissance flights are important."
But in an article for the New York Times chairman of the joint chiefs of staff stressed that the Pentagon wants to build bridges with Beijing.
Following his visit to China and his counterpart Gen Chen Bingde earlier this month, Adm Mullen said the US was considering an exchange of more junior defence officials.
"General Chen and I are considering more frequent discussions, more exercises, more personnel exchanges," he wrote.
"We both believe that the younger generation of military officers is ready for closer contact, and that upon their shoulders rests the best hope for deeper, more meaningful trust."
The relationship between China and the US should be based on "candid and forthright" talks rather than suspicion, he added.
He said that the time had come in the US to end reflexive suspicion of China, but admonished Beijing for cutting off ties whenever it didn't like "something we do".
"That can't be the model anymore. Nor can we, for our part, swing between engagement and overreaction," he wrote.
Though there are simmering fears in the region about China's increased military might, relations between China and Taiwan have eased lately as Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has abandoned his predecessor's pro-independence stance and boosted ties with the world's fastest-growing major economy.
China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which the Kuomintang claimed sovereignty over in 1949 after losing control of the mainland during the communist revolution.
Though Washington has dropped official recognition of Taiwan, the US is still obliged by law to defend the country against Chinese aggression.
In January last year President Barack Obama authorised the sale of $6.4 billion (£3.9bn) in arms, including missile systems and helicopters to Taipei, prompting Beijing to suspend military contacts for a year.
The US administration is close to a final decision on whether or not to sell 66 new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan by Oct 1.