- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

Imagine you are subject to a collision, your people kidnapped and then handed a bill for $1 million. As simplistic as it may sound, this more or less summarizes the chain of events after the U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane was hit by a Chinese fighter in international air space in April.

So therefore the $34,576 check that the White House has cut Beijing in the wake of the accident is $34,576 too much although far less than the $1 million China demanded. As regrettable as the collision was, the expenses China has incurred were self-inflicted. Of course, the Pentagon has drawn a carefully itemized calculation of what China's "legitimate" costs were in order to make the payment to Beijing look official and reasonable. But in truth, both the million dollar demand and the $34,576 check are arbitrary.

Although there is a difference of opinion between the United States and China over which plane caused the air collision, the U.S. government has, to put it mildly, a far superior record when it comes to telling the truth. A regime that doesn't hesitate to run over students with tanks in a public square isn't likely be squeamish about fudging the cause of an air collision especially if it can leverage the situation to whip up a nationalistic frenzy and milk the Americans for money.

Technically speaking, it is far more likely that the Chinese fighter, which becomes unstable at slow speeds, rammed into the slow but steady EP-3. This theory is, of course, substantiated by reports that China's fighters had been shadowing U.S. planes so aggressively that a tragedy seemed inevitable.

After the collision, the U.S. EP-3 landed on Hainan Island Chinese territory after signaling a mayday alert, just as it was supposed to do under international law. China then proceeded to infringe on U.S. sovereignty by inspecting the plane, and it further violated international law by keeping the U.S. crew against their will for 12 days. And, although the White House downplayed the incident and brought it to a relatively rapid resolution, the holding of the crew was nothing short of an abduction. China, thereupon, forced the United States to incur unnecessary costs by insisting that it disassemble the plane in order to retrieve it, when flying it back whole would have been a far more economic alternative.

Unfortunately, paying Beijing gives the appearance that the U.S crew are in some way culpable for the incident. If China was so bothered by U.S. spy missions, engaging in aerial bumper cars was not a reasonable way to resolve the issue. Nor was the abduction of the crew of the plane, or indeed the subsequent $1 million tab. For all of those reasons, Beijing doesn't deserve a dime.


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