Spy plane deadlock


I agree with nearly everything you said in your editorial [The New York Times, 4/12/01] except on one thing. The Chinese did not press for an apology for the sake of the "accident," as you said, calling it "untenable position." The Bush foreign-policy team, though, would heartily agree with you. All its repeated utterances of "regrets" and "very sorry" by the Bush team were directed at the loss of the Chinese plane plus the landing by the crippled EP-3E in a Chinese military airport without permission. The apology the Chinese sought was, instead, for the American spy plane's flight over China's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), abusing its right of flying in what is admittedly international airspace.

Under international law, foreign states enjoy the right of overflight in the airspace superjacent to a coastal state's 200-mile EEZ, but they must have "due regard" to the rights and duties of the coastal state. The EP-3E, on an espionage mission while flying over Chinese EEZ, can hardly be said to have shown such "due regard" for the coastal state's rights. While you gave credit to the Bush team for bringing back the American crew, it is amazing that its members have not grabbed this crucial point of what the disputed apology was about. This is why the Chinese insist that the matter is by no means over, because the issue of the abuse of right remains unsettled. If blind spots like this one are typical of the quality of the Bush team's foreign-policy skills, one has reasons to grieve for America's vital national interests when dealing with foreign powers (beyond the return of the crew). James C. Hsiung, Professor of International Law and Politics, New York University, April 12, 2001.