Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this study examines the critical issue of how to manage Chinese and American air and naval interactions.
The United States and China have a complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous relationship where substantial areas of cooperation coexist with ongoing strategic tensions and suspicions. One manifestation involves disputes and incidents when U.S. and Chinese military forces interact within China's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Three high-profile incidents over the last decade have involved aggressive maneuvers by Chinese military and/or paramilitary forces operating in close proximity to deter U.S. surveillance and military survey platforms from conducting their missions. Why do these incidents continue to occur despite mechanisms designed to prevent such dangerous encounters? Could new or different procedures or policies help avoid future incidents?
The problem in the U.S.-China case lies not with inadequate rules (for maritime operations) or history of practice (for air operations), but rather in the motivations that sometimes drive the Chinese to selective noncompliance with their provisions. China regards military surveillance and survey operations in its EEZ as hostile, threatening, illegal, and inappropriate. China's harassment of U.S. naval vessels and aircraft conducting surveillance and survey operations is intended to produce a change in U.S. behavior by raising the costs and risks of these operations.
The U.S. military has confronted this problem before. U.S. doctrine and operational practice in conducting and responding to surveillance operations derives primarily from Cold War interactions with the Soviet military. The two countries were eventually able to develop a mutually beneficial protocol, known as the Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA), for managing air and naval interactions, thereby reducing the potential for an incident to occur or escalate. Given the success of INCSEA and tactical parallels between U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-China interactions, the factors that led the Soviet Union to seek an agreement provide a useful prism for evaluating the current situation.
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