China should learn from Japan's costly mistake

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 12:00am

Given China's behaviour during the US spy-plane saga, it is clear that its leaders have not heeded the lessons of history.

On December 7, 1941, just before 8am, Japanese aircraft, Mitsubishi bombers and zeroes, carried out a sneak attack on the United States' military base at Pearl Harbour, destroying many American ships and killing many American servicemen.

In sober realisation after the attack, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto uttered these words: 'We have awakened a sleeping giant and instilled in it a terrible resolve.' Admiral Yamamoto was later ambushed and shot down by aircraft of that awakened giant on April 18, 1943.

On April 1, 2001, some 60 years later, a hot-shot young Chinese pilot named Wang Wei flying an F8 fighter jet harassed the US EP-3 surveillance plane by dangerously passing by too closely, and the F-8 flew into the whirling propellers of the EP-3.

Chinese military on Hainan held the Americans prisoner for 11 days before releasing them, and Hu Yanlin, number two in the Chinese Navy, blamed the US for the event and declared that Wang Wei was a martyr. It is obvious to any neutral observer that the buzzing of the US aircraft by the Chinese F-8 was deliberate, blatant and intended to be provocative. The unarmed EP-3 was flying straight and level, on autopilot, in international airspace, over international waters, and made no hostile gestures.

That the event occurred was strictly due to the overzealous mishandling by Wang Wei of his plane. But the reaction of the Chinese Government was neither in accordance with international law, nor was it cognisant of the words of Admiral Yamamoto.

If the Chinese have not completely awakened the sleeping giant that is America, they at least may have disturbed its Clintonian-caused military slumber, and it will be to their future disadvantage in dealings with a wide-awake President George W. Bush.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US