CHINA / MILITARY
China protests US spy plane for breaching PLA no-fly zone
Published: Aug 25, 2020 09:37 PM Updated: Aug 26, 2020 09:55 AM

Wreckage of a US-made U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft is on display at the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing. The military on the island of Taiwan used U-2s to conduct reconnaissance missions on the Chinese mainland since January 1962, and the PLA Air Force shot down the first U-2 on September 9, 1962 in the suburbs of Nanchang, East China's Jiangxi Province. Photo: Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution

The Chinese military strongly protested a US spy plane trespassing into a no-fly zone of a live-fire drill by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), a spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said on Tuesday, warning that the move threatened to cause a misjudgment and even an accident, and was a blatant act of provocation.  

The US military aircraft faced the risk of being mistakenly shot down when it entered a previously announced military drill restriction zone, and the PLA exercised great restraint not to do so, Chinese experts said. 

The PLA has shot down five U-2 aircraft in the past as they trespassed into the Chinese mainland airspace, Chinese military observers noted.

The U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft trespassed into a no-fly zone that is currently hosting  a live-fire drill by the PLA Northern Theater Command on Tuesday, which seriously interrupted the Chinese troops' normal exercises, said Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian in a statement.

Wu did not elaborate where exactly the plane trespassed.

According to navigation restriction notices released by Chinese maritime safety authorities in the past days, multiple live-fire drills were being held on Tuesday in the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea, which are under the jurisdiction of the PLA Northern Theater Command.

The move seriously violated the code of conduct for the safety of air and maritime encounters between China and the US, as well as related international norms, and could have easily caused misunderstanding and misjudgment, and even triggered an air and maritime accident, Wu said.

This was a blatant act of provocation, and the Chinese side is strongly against this, and has lodged solemn representations with the US, Wu said, noting that China demands the US to stop such provocative moves at once, and take concrete actions to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the U-2's trespassing into PLA drill restriction zones risked being mistakenly shot down.

If the U-2 entered Chinese airspace, it fits into norms and logic that the PLA has the right to shoot it down, Song said, noting that even if it did not fly into Chinese airspace, as long as it trespassed into the PLA's previously announced no-fly zone, it would also face the risk of being shot down.

The US should understand that the PLA must have exercised great restraint not to shoot it down, and that it should not provoke again, Song said.

A Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday that it is a normal practice for many militaries including the US' to announce no-fly zones to prevent accidents. The US spy plane knowingly committed the offense, which was very dangerous and disregarded the safety of the US pilot.

The expert said that a foreign military aircraft trespassing into live-fire drills means that it has become a live target. If the US military aircraft entered the Chinese military drill zone and got mistakenly shot down, the US military would only have itself to blame.

The US should not regret it when its warships sink, warplanes crash and soldiers are buried in an alien land, the anonymous expert warned.

China lodged solemn representations with the US on the day of the incident, and this showed China's responsible attitude and the use of diplomatic means and public opinion to force the US to stop its stupid, irresponsible move. It showed that China is exercising maximum restraint in maintaining regional peace and stability, another expert told the Global Times under condition of anonymity.

The US military has been stirring up trouble near China from the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea by sending warships and warplanes, which is increasing the odds of an accidental conflict, the anonymous expert said, noting that it will be the US who will be responsible for any potential accident.

The US spy attempt would also be fruitless, because the drills will change very fast, and the US aircraft's sudden appearance could also serve as training target for the PLA, experts said.

According to publicly available information, the PLA has shot down as many as five U-2s between 1962 and 1967 as they trespassed into Chinese mainland airspace.

Developed by US arms company Lockheed Martin in the 1950s, the U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft can conduct spying missions at an altitude of 27,430 meters, with a top speed of 821 kilometers an hour.

The military in the island of Taiwan had been using U-2s to conduct reconnaissance missions on the Chinese mainland since January 1962, and the PLA Air Force shot down the first U-2 on September 9, 1962 in the suburbs of Nanchang, East China's Jiangxi Province.


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