WASHINGTON — The Navy and Air Force told the Clinton administration in December that Chinese fighter jets had begun a systematic campaign of “buzzing” dangerously close to U.S. planes and ships in waters near China as early as a year ago, but the administration failed to brief Congress, WorldNetDaily has learned.
The provocations started in April 2000 and got closer and closer, congressional sources say, but the Pentagon didn’t formally complain to the White House until December — out of respect for its ongoing “strategic partnership” with China.
“The Clinton administration wanted to keep all this quiet, which they did,” a senior Senate aide told WorldNetDaily on the condition of anonymity. “They never told the Congress.”
Calls to the Pentagon were not returned by deadline.
China is holding the crew of a U.S. surveillance plane after it made an emergency landing Sunday at a Chinese military base after colliding with one of two Chinese fighter jets that were reportedly shadowing it in menacing fashion.
Congress expects China will release the 24-member crew by the end of the week, Hill sources say.
“They’ll be out by Friday at the latest for the simple reason that the congressional delegations leave for China on Saturday morning,” a Senate aide said, “so they (Beijing’s communist leaders) are not going to risk that.”
One source said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., one of the members of the House delegation, is “nervous” about meeting with officials in China this weekend given the
potential hostage crisis. The trip was planned long before the incident. Shays is interested in human-rights issues there.
But hopes of recovering intact the EP-3E spy plane, which contains hi-tech surveillance equipment, are dim.
“I don’t think we’re going to get the plane back for a long time,” he said. “And when we do, they’ll give it back in bits.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army likely will try to reverse-engineer the electronics system to gain insights into the U.S. military’s top-secret signals-gathering technology.
In such emergencies, the EP-3E crew is trained to destroy secret documents and manuals and disable hardware on board, so they won’t fall into potential enemy hands.
But even if crew members managed to carry out such security procedures, it won’t stop the communists, skilled at reverse-engineering, from taking the equipment apart and trying to replicate it.
The U.S. crew, described as very young, was flying a mission in the South China Sea to track weapons systems the PLA recently bought from Russia, which forged military ties with China during the Clinton administration.
“They were following the Sovremenny destroyer,” the senior Senate aide said.
China’s 7,300-ton Sovremenny destroyer, armed with eight nuclear-tipped SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, is of particular concern to the U.S. Pacific fleet because it is chiefly designed to kill American aircraft carriers — which stand as a major deterrent
to the mainland Chinese communists taking U.S. ally Taiwan by force.
Despite Beijing’s claims, Hill sources say flight-path coordinates show the EP-3E plane was flying outside the internationally recognized 12-mile limit on territorial waters, and did not intrude into China’s airspace.