Tens of thousands of readers on Wednesday learned that our Navy EP-3E surveillance plane now sitting at a Chinese airbase may have been fired upon by a Chinese fighter and forced to fly to its new Hainan Island home.

Incredibly, virtually no other news organization picked up this story.

Now granted, as a WND reporter, I love it when we manage to “scoop” other news agencies. And actually, we didn’t “scoop” this story; it was first published overseas, in the Taipei Times — generally a reliable newspaper that has, on several occasions, been first and correct about the goings-on between the small island nation and the mainland.

But there comes a time when a story is so significant, so important to the public, that it ought to be spread far and wide, regardless of who “got it first.” This story is one of them.

And yet, no other news organization bothered to report this, save one, despite the obvious implications and the importance of it to the American people.

Interestingly, a Pentagon spokesman did not deny the story when I called to inquire about it. Officially, the Pentagon only said, in essence, “We haven’t confirmed that this happened.” That’s Pentagonspeak for, “We may or may not have heard this, too … but we haven’t denied it, in any case.”

They may now, since WND is drawing attention to it, but that’s another story in and of itself. We’ll see how the Defense Department reacts.

It’s not that I fault the Pentagon for its reply; after all, national security issues and long-term foreign policy are at stake here. Can’t be giving away the candy store of intelligence to some reporter, can they? Maybe we don’t want the Chinese to know that we know, for diplomatic reasons.

Nevertheless, I believe the story and, given all the other intangibles, think it is valid. However, I can only speculate as to why this story wasn’t picked up and disseminated far and wide.

Here are some of those intangibles that, to me, indirectly add credibility to the Taiwan-based report:

  • The Taipei Times claims it has a source for its story; this paper historically does not say such things unless they’re true.

  • UPI reported Wednesday that the Hainan Island airbase just happens to be one of China’s largest electronic surveillance facilities, staffed with Chinese technicians and personnel that would “benefit the most” from a plane filled with precisely the kind of technology — albeit better technology — such a facility could use. Just a “coincidence” that the Navy’s most advanced surveillance plane landed there? I don’t believe so.

  • Viewing a map of the region, and saying this without being aboard the EP-3E myself during this incident, it still seems plausible to me that the plane could have headed towards “friendlier” climes — the Philippines, perhaps, or Japan or, in the extreme, Taiwan. Instead it flew to Chinese territory — an island that specifically conducts the same kind of surveillance mission in a ground-based capacity. If China was going to be the ultimate landing site, why Hainan? Why not Macau or Hong Kong?

  • If the Chinese fighter was willing to fire in the direction of the plane, in order to force it to fly to a specific airbase, would the plane have been destroyed by the fighter if it a) didn’t turn as directed; b) attempted to fly to a different location; or c) tried to ditch, as P-3 pilots and crewmen (former and current) have suggested should have been standard operating procedure? If that had happened, China would have spun it into propaganda, and the Bush administration very well may not have admitted to the U.S. public that our plane had been shot down, letting outraged Americans demand immediate military action against Beijing.

There are other things to consider, too.

Chinese military officials hold pretty tight reins over personnel, including fighter pilots. It is hard for me to imagine that no communications (read: instructions) were radioed to the Chinese pilots before, during and after the “bumping” incident.

What was the remaining Chinese F-8 pilot told to do? Someone knows — in fact, we likely know, given the awesome abilities of U.S. electronic surveillance and interception equipment we employ.

Was that pilot told to “direct” the American plane to one of China’s most sophisticated ground electronic eavesdropping and surveillance stations?

There are many reasonable explanations for what happened March 31 over the South China Sea, Sea of Japan, the Philippine Sea, or wherever this incident occurred (I’ve heard several different locations — suspicious in and of itself).

But even with reasonable explanations come legitimate questions that Americans ought to have answered. If the Taipei Times story was accurate — and, at this point, there is no reason to assume it is not — then what occurred last weekend was a hostile act akin to an act of war.

By right of ascension, Americans permit our politicians to engage our military in these kinds of missions, in this part of the world, because, we’re told, it’s “important and necessary to our national security.”


But so is knowing what happens to our servicemen and women when a crisis involving them pops up.

Do I expect the Pentagon to admit to this, if indeed it is true? Of course not; it should, mind you, if true, but believe me, it won’t.

However, someone ought to be able to confirm this as a second source, complete with the proof to substantiate it. If so, that person or persons can sure contact us, and we’ll get to the bottom of it.

Not that the rest of the press would be duty-bound to report our confirmation, mind you.

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