SOUTH CHINA SEA

‘We don’t want another pilot killed’: Chinese admiral vows to continue intercepting US planes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 5:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 6:51pm

China’s top naval commander has vowed to keep intercepting US spy planes but said China doesn't want a repeat of the 2001 mid-air collision incident which left a Chinese pilot dead.

Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the PLA Navy and a member of the Central Military Commission, said that as long as the US continues reconnaissance flights near Chinese territory or waters, China will not stop blocking and intercepting spy planes.

“It’s become routine for the US to conduct close-in surveillance of China and I don’t see the end of these activities. The US won’t be the US if they stop doing it,” Wu told top US naval officials at an international forum in Newport, Rhode Island, according to the Global Times. “But China’s countermeasures won’t end either.”

Wu said that China “does not want to sacrifice a second Wang Wei,” referring to the pilot of a PLA Navy fighter jet who died when his aircraft collided mid-air with a US spy plane around 100 miles from Hainan island on April 1, 2001.

The collision sparked a major diplomatic incident between China and the US after the spy plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan and the 24 crew members were detained and interrogated by Chinese authorities. The crew was released after US ambassador Joseph Prueher delivered a letter expressing “regret and sorrow” for the role of the US in the incident.

The admiral’s remarks come under a month after a Chinese jet allegedly buzzed a US plane in the South China Sea.

“On August 19, an armed Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a US Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft that was on a routine mission,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters. The jet reportedly flew within six metres of the US plane and did a barrel roll.

Wu denied that the incident took place, saying that “two photos can’t prove anything.”

China has accused the US of fuelling tensions in the South China Sea and has rejected a US proposal for a multilateral deal which would seek to end provocative actions in the region.

Beijing claims almost the entire area and is locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam and other neighbouring states.