Managing Sino-U.S. Air and Naval Interactions: Cold War Lessons and New Avenues of Approach   [open pdf - 870KB]

"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.[…] This study does not attempt to weigh the intelligence value of U.S. operations in China's EEZ against their negative impact on U.S.-China relations or the costs of the coercive options identified above. U.S. policymakers will need to carefully consider whether the status quo is tolerable, the costs and risks of various approaches, and what mix of policies might move China in desired directions at an acceptable cost."

Report Number:
China Strategic Perspectives No. 5
Public Domain
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National Defense University: http://www.ndu.edu/
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