Memo to Chinese Generals

Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, called on China to exercise caution in how it responds to US reconnaissance flights in international airspace near China. “We have to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2001,” he said immediately following his address at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., Monday. He was referring to the catastrophic midair collision between a Chinese fighter, flown by an overly aggressive pilot, and a Navy EP-3E surveillance aircraft operating over international waters off the coast of southern China. Mullen was responding to an audience question about the alleged incident in late June when two Chinese fighters scrambled to intercept a U-2 reconnaissance airplane over the Taiwan Strait. “We have to be careful about the intercepts,” he said. He warned of aggressive behavior escalating tension and placing countries “in a position to miscalculate [and] go in the wrong direction with respect to stability and peaceful resolution” of issues. Mullen said the United States “won’t be deterred from flying in international airspace” because “these reconnaissance flights are important.” (For more on the EP-3 incident, read The Last Flight of Wang Wei from Air Force Magazine’s archives.)