Mustafa AY – TDO – 27.07.2017 After the confrontation amidst USA and China in South China Sea, now East China Sea witnesses a potential deep crisis between the same actors. While EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft belonging to US forces was executing the surveillance mission in East China Sea, two Chinese aircraft, J-10 and Su-30, took off for the immediate interception into the aircraft. The incident unfolded 148 km away from Qingdao, the port city of China. Following Chinese forces’ intervention, Pentagon officials in anonymity accused China of hostile approach to its military elements on duty. According to Pentagon, the fighter jets were armed with missiles that were ready-to-launch. On the other side, Chinese Defense Ministry expressed that the interception to US aircraft was conducted in accordance with International Maritime Law which makes every sort of intervention legitimate by China, they claim so.
Surveillance activities in East China Sea that US forces are fulfilling are regarded as threat to national security by Beijing. However, there is an undeniable fact that North Korean threatening remarks against USA unavoidably coerce Washington to execute spying-on flights in the region. However, Beijing doubts that USA might deviate its spying missions against themselves, while operating these aircrafts for observing North Korea. China has reason to come up with this suspicion. Because the region where Chinese jets intervened into US aircrafts in the course of spying-on is located on West of Yellow Sea. Namely, the incident happened in Chinese offshore. So, it is reasonable to doubt about USA, when it comes to spying-on activities. On the other side, USA also has reasonable doubts about China. China is close ally of North Korea which makes USA to take China factor into consideration. US government cannot leave the progress in the region to chance. Namely, Washington has to watch every military activities done by regional actors which may result in against its own interests.
Both sides have doubts about each other. The reason lying behind these mutual doubts is North Korea conflict. Following N.Korean’s successful ballistic millise test, Kim Jong-Un raised its threats against USA. This inevitably triggered Pentagon’s decision to deploy 3 aircraft carriers with many troops on this hot region. But the most irritating move of USA is to deploy THAAD ground-to-air missile systems in South Korea. Even if USA took precaution against North Korea, Chinese aerial activities within its maritime territory may be harassed by those missiles which have potential to undermine China’s sovereignty in the territory. According to China, China’s image would be tarnished in face of UN member countries, if they let USA move in the hot region as they wish. That’s why, China’s interception can be deemed as both measure to protect its image and retaliation against THAAD missiles. But, it is possible that China’s retaliation to USA may address the issue of South China Sea.