The mild reaction of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad expressing “regret” over the incident as “In the first place, it should not have happened and no country in the world would want that they be spied on" was most uncharacteristic of him.
There is no doubt that if the Clinton administration is still at the helm of the United States Government, Mahathir would have been the first in the world to denounce US spy-plane flights in and near Chinese air space and US threats since the plane landed in China as acts of aggression and blatant attacks on Chinese sovereignty.
Mahathir would also have been most caustic that instead of offering
an immediate apology for spying in Chinese coastal waters and most likely
causing the death of a Chinese pilot and the loss of a Chinese jet, the
US government has gone on the offensive, demanding the unconditional
release of the
spies and the equipment.
Mahathir would most likely posed the rhetoric question as to whether
United States would have allowed a Chinese spy plane to conduct electronic
surveillance and reconnaissance off the coast of Long Island or Virginia
although the Pentagon regularly conducts such spy missions against other
The US claim that the EP-3 spy-plane is sovereign US territory and that the Chinese cannot board the plane as it is protected by the “concept of sovereign immunity" is untenable and the product of US super-power arrogance which is not supported by the United States’ own practice. This is because when a Cuban defector flew an advanced MiG plane to Florida, even though it was not engaged in spying, U.S. specialists disassembled the plane.
Or as an international law expert who described the US spy plane incident as “a very provocative action by the U.S. off the coast of China” said:
“The argument that this plane is U.S. sovereign territory is without merit. It would normally have immunity, but that is compromised when you're spying, like the Gary Powers case, though that went directly over the USSR. The U.S. would never tolerate similar behavior by China; we maintain a 200-mile Air Defense Intercept Zone. Just because we say that this is international airspace doesn't mean that the Chinese accept it; this area in the South China Sea is highly disputed."
It must be a matter of international concern which Parliament must express in its emergency resolution tomorrow that the Bush administration seems to have taken a more confrontational attitude toward China from the start, which is bound to create tense international situations and is not conducive to world peace.