Taiwan military's 'overreaction' to report shows it's 'guilty': Beijing think tank

By Guo Yuandan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/2 22:18:41

Denies for a 3rd time that a US military aircraft took off from island

Photo: The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative

The island of Taiwan on Wednesday said a Beijing think tank report on Sunday which claims a US military aircraft may have taken off from a Taiwan-based airfield and flew to Japan was fake news. This is the third time that the Taiwan military authority has responded to the report by the think tank, which recently gained prominence for closely tracking US military activities in the Taiwan Straits. 

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, the head of the think tank stressed that the Taiwan authorities' "grand treatment" of the report was an overreaction and only causes suspicion from the outside world. 

"We have not published false information, but have reasonable suspicion based on open source ADS-B and remote sensing data, which can be restored and retraced on the international platform. We welcome the island's response, but hope it can come up with more details and evidence to prove that there is no such thing," Hu Bo, director of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) - the think tank - told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The SCSPI has regularly tracked the activities of US ships and aircraft surrouding Taiwan island, which has concerned the Taiwan military authority. 

An EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft was spotted in the northern "airspace" of Taiwan and flew to Japan over the East China Sea on Sunday. This unusual flight path showed that the aircraft potentially took off from an airport on the island, according to information released by the SCSPI's website. 

However, the SCSPI also said that the unusual flight path of the US military aircraft could have been caused by signal errors. On Monday night, the Taiwan military called the news "false information, completely against the facts, and seriously undermined regional security and stability." 

On Tuesday, the think tank said that by comparing remote sensing satellite images, it was suspected that the US guided missile destroyer USS Halsey was found in the Penghu area. If confirmed, this will be the first time a US warship has been found sailing in Taiwan's "internal waters" while crossing the Taiwan Straits. This also further provokes the Chinese mainland. 

On the same night, the Taiwan navy authority said the information was deliberately fabricated, and called on Taiwan media not to quote it. Prior to this, Taiwan's defense auhthority took the initiative to announce that a US Navy destroyer crossed the Taiwan Straits on Monday. 

This is the ninth time a US warship has crossed the Taiwan Straits this year. A spokesperson for the US Navy's Seventh Fleet said that the USS Halsey passes through the Taiwan Straits on a regular basis.

On Wednesday, Taiwan's "Ministry of National Defense" held a press conference to explain the "fake information" recently released by the SCSPI. "Deputy minister" Chang Che-ping declared, "The content is fictitious or fish eyes," adding that the Chinese mainland intends to use this platform to release false information, and to attract international attention through media reports. 

Hu said he saw the comments made by Taiwan's defense authority, and welcomed the response, as it proves that the island attaches great importance to the matter. 

"The island's response is subjective, and I hope for more rational voices. More detailed information is welcome to prove that everything is fine," Hu said, noting that the SCSPI will continue to publish sea and air conditions around Taiwan to dispel doubts and speculation.

Hu said the think tank has established its own sea and air situation system for research to continuously track and disclose the dynamics of ships and aircraft in the South China Sea. The think tank tracking relies on the domestic and foreign shared ship tracking identification system (AIS), and broadcast automatic surveillance system (ADS-B). The information of these two systems is open source commercial data, and there are many ways to obtain it.

"The information we publish is not manufactured. It can be restored on an authoritative international platform. When the information is released, we make reasonable analysis and do not draw a conclusion," Hu told the Global Times. 

 Hu said that "we welcome the Taiwan authority to provide more evidence to show that all the abnormalities did not happen, which would also delight us." 

As for the landing of the EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft, Hu further explained that surveillance shows the situation around the island of Taiwan is complicated, with abnormal activities of US military aircraft. But he admitted that they cannot conclude based on public surveillance. There are three possibilities: one is misleading information, as the ASD-B system may show turbulence, like GPS; the second would be that the US military made a false signal to distort surveillance from the mainland; and the third, the report is true, Hu said, noting that is why the institute marked "suspected" in its published information. 

As for the entry of the USS Halsey in the internal waters of Taiwan, Hu said the image comes from the US-based Planet company, which is commercially available. Data of the ship's width and length matches a Burke-class destroyer, and the USS Halsey happened to sail across the Taiwan Straits. The location was made by a satellite image, so deviation exists, but the error could be small.

"Of course, based solely on a three-meter satellite image resolution ratio to identify a 10,000-ton level destroyer is difficult, and more evidence is needed, and that's why we marked it as 'suspected,'" Hu said.  

Hu believes Taiwan overly reacted to the report published by the think tank, and such "grand treatment" actually sparked suspicion from the outside world. "We just  described the facts when we published our data, to back our doubts and not to stir conflicts in the Straits," Hu said. He noted that Taiwan's reaction shows there's something fishy. "If they keep a necessary distance with the US, will they be afraid to discuss it?" 

"Will Taiwan still be nervous if they distance themselves from the US?" asked Hu, saying that his think tank will keep publishing relevant information and provide objective analysis. "We'd like to get feedbacks from Taiwan, but we hope they are rational ones, with more details and evidence, instead of baseless subjective conclusions."
Newspaper headline: Taiwan 'overreaction' shows it's 'guilty'

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