Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE) -The Chinese embassy in Serbia held a ceremony to commemorate three reporters killed and 27 diplomats injured in a bombing conducted by the NATO forces 20 years ago on May 7.

About 100 people, including Ambassador Chen Bo and Serbian officials, attended the ceremony, the embassy said in a statement. Also joining the mourning were Chinese reporters, Chinese people living in Serbia and representatives of Chinese companies.

All those attending the ceremony stood in silent tribute and laid wreaths before a monument.

On the night of May 7, 1999, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed with missiles during the NATO campaign against the former Yugoslavia. The three reporters killed were Shao Yunhuan from Xinhua News Agency and Xu Xinghu and Zhu Ying from Guangming Daily newspaper.

The bombing invoked the strongest protest from the Chinese government and a wave of protests in many Chinese cities.

The United States claimed that its planes had mistaken the embassy for a nearby warehouse. Significantly, it was the only bombing of the war conducted solely under the authority of the CIA. The Chinese government never accepted this version of events and believed that the attack was deliberate although they have, at least officially, accepted that President Clinton was unaware of the intention to attack the embassy. The United States subsequently paid 28 million dollars in compensation to the victims and for damage to the building.

During the visit of the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping to Serbia in June 2016, he and his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolić visited the location and announced the construction of the eight story 45 million euro Chinese Cultural Centre on the location of the former embassy. The construction of the centre began on July 20, 2017.

The United States are believed to have attacked the embassy because they thought it was being used to help the Yugoslav defence forces to predict and protect themselves from the NATO air attacks. NATO was in difficulty because their air campaign, launched without the consent of the United Nations, was not effective in bringing the Serbian government quickly to its knees as originally planned.

Whatever short terms advantages may have been gained from the attack have been heavily outweighed by the long-term geopolitical fallout. The naked demonstration of power by the Western nations against Russian ally Yugoslavia was the founding event in driving Russian rearmament and the partnership with China. Since that date the Russians and Chinese have settled their differences and worked jointly to push back against the overwhelming military power of the United States. They have particularly cooperated in the missile defence sector. By extension Russian and Chinese allies notably Iran and Venezuela will be much more difficult to attack from the air.

The United States and its western allies have grown wary of engaging in wars on land after the military fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan. Effective air defence therefore largely cancels out their enormous military superiority.

It is now widely believed that the hugely expensive US aircraft carrier fleet would today be completely ineffective in any war with China or Russia.

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