US spy planes: The monkey on our back

Herman Tiu Laurel / Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies / October 12, 2020

Little did the Philippines realize that its longtime and “traditional ally,” the United States of America, had all along been putting the safety of Philippine airlines and lives of Filipinos in peril over the seas of Asia, particularly in the China Sea and the Yellow Sea.

In mid-September 2020 the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) a group with the stated mission of “Promoting Transparency, Peace and Cooperation of the South China Sea” updated on its previous reports of US surveillance aircraft masking themselves as airplanes of other countries. In this report SCSPI identified Malaysian planes used to mask the US spy planes.

Later in September, Philippine newspapers started echoing the SCMP (South China Morning Post) report on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s announcement accusing the US of masking the identities of its “warplanes as civilian aircraft to spy on China at least 100 times this year” and describing it as a “serious security threat.”

The SCMP report this time cited the Americans’ use of Philippine aircraft identification code instead of Malaysian, as the US spy plane disguised itself to appear like a Philippine aircraft while flying over the Yellow Sea between the Chinese and Korean coastline. After these reports surfaced, the Philippine Defense Secretary and the National Security Adviser both demanded clarifications from the US.

The Chinese have apparently been tracking these US violations of common air protocols for some time now, releasing the information to the world only after accumulating the 100 cases they said they have tracked and certainly can show proof of that the US cannot deny anymore. China’s foreign ministry spokesman described it thus: “It’s a common trick… It is of a vile nature…”

Vile indeed, especially when the trick, if played on the US’ “oldest ally” in Asia, the Philippines, which is supposed to enjoy special consideration from the Americans and maintain trust and confidence of the highest order that the security of each country is entrusted to the other. At least that’s the way many Filipinos think of it, but it’s clearly a one-way street for the Americans.

This repulsive ploy of the Americans using third countries’ airplane identification code can lead to grave consequences for Filipino civilian lives on board Philippine civilian airliners. The world recalls with horror the three major air tragedies of suspiciously mistaken airplane identities that together killed over 500 totally innocent and clueless passengers.

The first case was that of civilian Korean Airlines or KAL 007 mistaken for a hostile US warplane unresponsive to warnings and shot down over Soviet Russian airspace in 1983, the height of the Cold War with the US, killing all 269 on board. The other case is the Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine killing 283, a case that Malaysian PM Mahathir still believes involves US-Ukraine complicity.

There is also the case of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 involving US misidentification of a civilian Iranian airline and shot down by USS Vincennes over the Strait of Hormuz, killing 290 civilians and crew on board. Although these incidents happened under differing circumstances, the key factor in the tragedies were mistaken identification of the airplanes – and we don’t want that for Philippine planes.

For Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, this is a wake-up call to be wary of the US-Philippine alliance that is does not lull our nation to the deceit and perfidy at marks US treatment of the Philippines from the very beginning of its relationship as a “trusted” friend against colonial Spain and turning out to be the new colonizer.

Today, in the context of the “New Cold War” the US is supposed to be ready to defend the Philippines. US Secretary Pompeo in May this year said “… any armed attack on Philippines forces, aircraft or public vessels… will trigger mutual defense obligations…” Pompeo did so in the context of the US call for an “anti-China alliance”.

Pompeo’s campaign for a NATO-type force against China has fallen on deaf ears as all ASEAN countries have shown no desire to even entertain. They either kept quiet or openly declared that they have no intention of taking sides in the US campaign against China. They want to continue the constructive and productive engagement with the peaceful Asian major power.

But the US is not known as a superpower for being easily dissuaded from its goals. It has always used “false flags” to create its excuse for polarizing countries, making enemies of friends and sparking conflicts and wars – such as the contrived Sinking of the Maine that started the Spanish-American War that led the US to colonize a Spanish possession – the Philippines.

For the uninitiated, a “false flag” is “an operation committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on a second party (Wiki).” Aside from the “Sinking of the Maine,” there were the Israeli planes disguised as Egyptian attacking USS Liberty to enable the US to enter the Six-Day War and the US faked attack on USS Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf in 1968 to open the bombing of North Vietnam.

The Americans have already created several pre-conditions for a “false flag” operation to trigger conflict between China and the Philippines, including the PCA hoax “award” that some Filipinos cherish enough to egg for war on (like Carpio) and needs only one incident – such as a false flag US plane masked as a Filipino challenging Chinese air space and triggering a significant clash and a defeat of Philippine forces which will be used to exacerbate the “hate China” campaign.

The revelations from the SCSPI, a counter-transparency group to the American’s AMTI (Asia Maritime Transparency Institute) run by the US “New CIA” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), should be an eye-opener for many still deluded Filipinos on the subterfuges of America in its relations with the Philippines – and requires our security officials such in the DND and NSC to cross check what the AMTI feeds them with the studies of the SCSPI.

Gladly, our Philippine defense officials have been speaking out against the US violation of Philippine security and sovereignty with regards to air identification codes in this case. Following up on his inquiry with the US embassy on the report of US spy planes using Philippine air codes, NSC adviser Hermogenes Esperon said:

“We have no update yet. We have yet to get the reaction of the US Embassy. But it is important to ask them and caution them or inform them if they have not known about it that their pilots have been using the codes that belong to Philippine aircraft.”

But this is not enough, the US deception and treachery must be condemned by the Duterte government forcefully.

The US spy plane use of Philippine air code reminds me of the saying “Monkey on my back” which refers to a heavy burden or also the problem of drug dependency on addicts. The US “alliance” is like an addiction that can kill its host that the Philippines has not completely thrown off; as some military and civilian elements still say this addiction that can kill – is still needed when in fact it is the monkey on our back.




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