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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Is eavesdropping justified?
The Chinese President Jiang Zemin has blamed the United States for the weekend collision between a US navy spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet.
The high-tech jet belongs to an elite, highly classified reconnaissance unit and is packed with equipment capable of intercepting and analysing radio and other electronic communications anywhere in the world.
Defence analysts say it would be catastrophic blow for the US if the Chinese manage to gain access to the aircraft and obtain knowledge of the computers and hard disks on board.
Is such an aircraft needed in a post-Cold War world? Is such surveillance justified? Has it gone too far?
This debate is now closed. Please read a selection of your comments below.
Sook Eng Tan, Singapore
All countries gather intelligence one way or another. The only way to ensure that the "free world" remains free, is to do a better job of getting information on a potential adversary and then taking steps to develop the necessary weapons to defeat them should that need ever arise. Intelligence gathering is not only justified, it is essential to world peace.
When a Russian air force lieutenant
defected to Japan aboard a brand new
top secret MIG in 1975, Americans literally
took that plane apart.
China represents the next big threat to Western democracies over the next few decades. I am glad to see that the US finally has a President who is willing to call a spade an spade (or at least thinking about it) - that China is an adversary. The commercial interests that held sway in the Clinton administration turned a blind eye to the Chinese strategy of using commercial acquisitions to build their nation into a superpower. In short, they have a superiority complex. The sooner we deal with China the safer the world will be.
I find it interesting that many see nothing wrong with eavesdropping yet if you asked any young child if they thought it was a good thing they would say no.
The United States is acting in its best interests by eavesdropping on China. The US would like to see all vital shipping channels remain open and Taiwan co-exist with the PRC in peace. The US would be well advised to develop excellent relations with India which is probably the only democracy in that region with the potential of countering China.
Intelligence surveillance of another country's military forces is an indispensable means to keep apprised of their capabilities and intentions. It is an entirely legitimate activity and one that, when properly conducted, is in no way prohibited under international law. Indeed, in situations where there is even a possibility that the state under observation may put its armed forces to use, it would be shortsighted and irresponsible not to gather such information. Intelligence gathering was hardly invented during the Cold War, and there is no reason to suppose or to suggest that it has outlived its usefulness today.
Of course the US is justified in keeping tabs on the Chinese regime. If a surprise invasion of Taiwan were launched by the PLA, the US would be criticised for being caught unawares. It will take some time for the Chinese to analyse the EP-3's systems. Once the US aircrew are safely away I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a B2 Spirit has destroyed the aircraft with a precision guided weapon.
I think that America's surveillance over other countries is completely illegal and unfriendly. Just image if China sent a plane along the US coast, how would it respond?
We Chinese are peaceful and friendly and want to establish a good relationship with other countries.
Alex, NZ, etc
I really wonder what would have happened
had a Chinese spy plane been flying along the Eastern Coast
of the United States, a few hundred kilometres
away from Washington?
Would the Americans have intervened?
I find it hilarious that the Americans have hand-delivered the Chinese a package containing their latest top secret gadgets. If it was a Chinese plane on Long Island I can't imagine the Americans would be rushing to give it back.
The US is merely trying to protect its national interest by monitoring the actions of a state where little trust exists between the two countries. Likewise China is perfectly within its rights to inspect the contents of the plane for its own advantage and the perceived advantage of its people. Spying always has and always will exist. Where is the debate?
Provided the aircraft was operating in international airspace,
the US is probably within its rights. If surveillance has any
place in the 21st century, it's for trying to find out what
potential enemies may be planning.
Every country spies. But it's funny watching the USA try and pretend the plane was there for innocent reasons.
Major (Retd) Chris Klein, England
Now people can start to realise just how dangerous President Bush is. He's making threats against China, just when people were hoping the Cold War was over, so what is his problem? An American spy plane was snooping near China's "airspace" and was bought down. Diplomatic talks would be helpful, but I hope Dubya is kept away from nuclear buttons.
To paraphrase a great British statesman, governments have no permanent friends, only permanent interests.
Eavesdropping on China by the USA is absolutely justified and would be warmly welcomed by most democracies in the region. China has expansionist designs in all of Asia and has been responsible for instability in the region, all the way from the borders of larger regional democracies such as India to militarily weaker democracies such as Taiwan. US eavesdropping in this context is not only justified, but is regionally popular.
Phil D, UK
The US now considers itself to be the only remaining Superpower. Because of this we can fly our warplanes anywhere; overthrow or assassinate foreign leaders our leaders dislike; enact an embargo such as we see on Iraq which can kill a million children while the rest of the world looks on as silent, mute spectators. If any nation dares to oppose or confront these policies we can either soon silence them by closing our markets to them or use our veto in the greatest tool of control ever created in history, the United Nations.
Of course it is right to try to obtain information about another country's intentions towards one's own. What gets me is when Governments eavesdrop on their own citizens on the off-chance that they might be planning something illegal (cf GCHQ, currently the biggest building programme in Europe).
03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
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Inside the US spy plane
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