Monday, April 2, 2001

U.S. had complained over air 'bumper cars'
A U.S. military reconnaisance aircraft
is grounded, its crew unreachable
on a Chinese island

By Jaymes Song
Associated Press

THE TOP-RANKING U.S. military officer in the Pacific blamed the collision of a Navy surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet on a "pattern of increasingly unsafe behavior" by China's military in the South China Sea.

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, criticized China in a news conference yesterday at Camp Smith in Honolulu.

"I must tell you that the intercepts by Chinese fighters over the past couple of months have become more aggressive to the point that we felt they were endangering the safety of the Chinese and American aircraft," Blair said.

U.S. military officials had "launched a protest at the working level" before yesterday's incident but did not receive a satisfactory response, he said.

"We went to the Chinese and said: 'Your aircraft are not intercepting in a professional manner. There's a situation here,'" Blair said. "It's not a normal practice to play bumper cars in the air."

The EP-3 surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet sent to intercept it over the South China Sea early yesterday and made an emergency landing in China. The Chinese government said the fighter crashed and its pilot was missing.


The American plane landed at a military airfield on Hainan, a Chinese island. Chinese officials assured the United States the crew members were safe.

But the United States has had no contact with the 24-member crew since it reported that it landed safely with no injuries, Blair said.

"We just don't know" what has happened to them, Blair said.

If a Chinese plane were to make an emergency landing in Hawaii, the United States would put the crew in touch with its base and make arrangements for the repair and return of the aircraft.

"We are waiting right now for the Chinese government to give us the kind of cooperation that is expected of countries in situations like this," Blair said.

China blamed the U.S. aircraft for the collision.

EP-3E plane


Facts about the U.S. Navy plane that made an emergency landing in China after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet:

>> Equipped to monitor radio, radar, telephone, e-mail, fax and satellite signals.

>> Turboprop airplane 116 feet long, about the size of a Boeing 737 commercial jetliner.

>> Took off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. It is part of an electronic warfare squadron based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. "World Watchers" is the squadron's nickname, a black bat its logo.

>> Carried 22 Navy personnel, one Air Force officer and one Marine.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin