A military expert has said that the situation would be “catastrophic” for the US Armed Forces if the Chinese gained access to the military secrets about the EP-3 spy plane (part of a squadron nicknamed “The World Watchers”) which landed in China after a collision with a Chinese F-8 jet. “It is catastrophic for the US if the Chinese have managed to gain access to the aircraft and if they have managed to obtain access to the computers and hard disks. The Chinese will probably sell the information to the Russians, so it means everyone will have access to one of the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering airplanes in the world”, said Paul Beaver, of Jane’s Defence Weekly. The intelligence-gathering activities of US surveillance aircraft are known to include civilian, as well as military, data collection missions. Washington has told the Chinese authorities not to board the aircraft, but since it is in Chinese territory, this order is issued more in hope than expectation. The main issue now is how much software the Chinese have access to, since standard operating procedure in these situations is to jettison sensitive material into the sea. The US servicemen and women on board the EP-3 will have been trained to destroy as much sensitive material as possible before the emergency landing took place. As for the aircrew, the Chinese authorities have declared them to be safe and US Consular access is expected to take place later today. The reactions from Washington reflect the desperation felt by the US Armed Forces at yet another humiliating accident. The US Ambassador in Beijing, Admiral Joseph Prueher, stated that the refusal to allow access to the crew was “inexplicable and unacceptable”. The White House went further. President Bush stated that “the first step should be immediate access by our embassy personnel to our crew members. I am troubled by the lack of a timely response to our request for this access...(China’s delay) is inconsistent with standard diplomatic practice and with the express desire of both our countries for better relations”. He added that the incident has the potential to damage the good relationship between the two countries and that the time has come for the US servicemen to return home and for the equipment to be returned. As Washington becomes hysterical about the lost equipment and the world’s attention is focused on how damaging the incident will be to the USA foreign arms sales over the next decade, nothing is mentioned of the human tragedy – the loss of a Chinese pilot. In today’s world, this fact has paled into insignificance in the eyes of the world’s press. It seems that for too many, machine is given importance over Man. The Chinese authorities have requested the US to cease from such spying missions in future near Chinese territory. The blatant truth is that if the US had not been interfering where it is not called, as usual, the incident would never have happened. That the Chinese should gain access to the most sophisticated vigilance equipment, intact and in a good state, would seem a just punishment for the crime. After all, if a highly sophisticated piece of equipment dropped from the sky into US territory, would the United States Armed Forces obediently stand to attention outside it? Hypocrisy, again.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON
The Armed Forces of Ukraine may face new problems over the upgraded Russian unmanned aerial vehicle Lancet. Kyiv will now need to use airfields far from the line of combat contact and look for new ways to protect its aircraft