[EDITORIALS]Dangerous Midair CollisionA U.S. navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea on Sunday. The jet plunged into the sea and the U.S. plane made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island. The collision, which occurred at a time when U.S.-China relations are going awry under the new Bush administration, has drawn special attention since it could possibly further fuel tension between the two countries.
What really happened is still unclear; accounts of the collision given by the two countries differ. China claims that the accident occurred as it was defending its territory, following the incursion of the U.S. plane in Chinese airspace, placing responsibility with the United States. The United States contends that the accident occurred outside the Chinese perimeter in international airspace, pointing at an unusual Chinese confrontation.
If the disagreement between the two countries over the accident heats up and a resolution is delayed, the repercussions would be immeasurably grave. As long as China has under its protection the 24 U.S. military crewmen and the EP-3 surveillance plane with its high-tech spy equipment, the observation that the American response will be limited apparently will gain ground.
However, the gravity of the situation lies in that we cannot dismiss the possibility that the Bush administration might try to tackle the problem by continuing its hard-line offensive against China.
The conflict that has occurred between the two countries since the inauguration of the Bush administration is not confined to a few points. The United States is prepared to go ahead with its sales of an Aegis destroyer to Taiwan despite repeated warnings by China. The accident comes at a sensitive time when the decision on the final sale of the destroyer is only a step away.
China's vice premier, Qian Qichen, went to Washington to demand that the United States think twice about the sale, to which U.S. President George W. Bush coldly replied, "It is up to us to decide." China is dealing with the flight of a Chinese colonel by arresting an American-based scholar.
Also, the U.S. House of Representatives has adopted a resolution opposing China's bid to host the 2008 summer Olympic games on the grounds that China violates human rights, and the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary-designate has expressed his opinion that Taiwan should be recognized as a sovereign entity. At the same time, the two countries are entangled in a fierce, vociferous battle at the United Nations Human Rights Commission over the repression of the spiritual Falun Gong movement.
The Bush administration is assuming China will be the main enemy of the United States in the twenty-first century. The new foreign affairs and defense team harbors "realism" and believes it is unrealistic to view China as a "strategic partner" given China's political, economic and military potential. It instead thinks China should be gauged as a "strategic competitor." China is also adamantly opposed to the national missile defense system pursued by the United States, purportedly to defend itself against "rogue" nations, including North Korea, because Beijing believes it is ultimately aimed at China.
Just as "a whale fight breaks shrimps' backs," U.S.-China discord will inevitably chill the reconciliatory and cooperative spirit on the Korean peninsula. The two countries should use this opportunity to put an end to the cycle of discord by exercising self-control and smoothly solving the problem surrounding the collision.