US Defense Secretary Miller’s naughty US spy flights

New trick: The U.S. military leases commercial planes for reconnaissance near China’s coastal waters, with an average of 10 sorties per month since August. (SCSPI photo)

The new Trump appointee US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller (doomed to be the shortest serving ever) was in the Philippines making a show of donating war equipment to the Philippines, ironically in the time when it is not needed as it is the time of the Covid pandemic when what we need are ventilators, protective equipment, vaccines and financial aid for economic recovery.

 But when we drastically needed military equipment as in the 2017 Marawi Siege the U.S. blocked sniper rifles already paid for by the Philippine government, on the grounds of the unacceptable human rights conditions of the country.

Even today there are legislative bills in the US Congress that continue to seek banning of such defense hardware to the country. It will be remembered that in October 2016, barely four months after President Duterte assumed office, the U.S. State Department halted the delivery of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines’ national police, after Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opposed sale of weapons over his concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines.

 Let’s hope the donations are not things that need to be repaired and requiring the Philippines to buy spare parts from the US to make functional, as US donation are often wont to require. We can recall the donations of the Navy Hamilton-class cutters that came from the US junkyards and required the Philippines to spend millions of US dollars to make operational.

 But, in the meantime….

 As the niceties between Miller and our Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana are transpiring, the US continues its transgressions against Asia, the Philippines and China. The latest is the shift of US spying activities from illegally using Philippine air codes in surveillance over the Philippines and Chinese territories.

 After having been discovered using the illegal hex code, the US are now using private contractors to surveil over the higher latitudes of the China Sea as well as flying down to Mindanao on mission for US Special Forces in the Philippines. These are new information we are getting from the SCSPI (South China Sea Probing Initiative).

Recalling US abuse of Philippine air codes

 Last September the US was caught deliberately misusing Philippine and Malaysian civilian air codes to mask their military spy planes’ intelligence and surveillance flights over the northern parts of the China Sea that also covers parts of the Philippines’ northern routes.

 This transgression of international air flight rules was detected and reported to the international community by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on a South China Sea monitoring group report. Composed of Chinese and international experts, the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) produced incontrovertible evidence of the US violations.

 A report from the South China Morning Post citing the SCSPI and Chinese Foreign Ministry in the last week of September published information that are impressive for its detail details, for example: “RC-135S aircraft switched on it identification code during a reconnaissance mission, … US Air Force has used a similar trick 100 times already this year, Chinese foreign ministry says…”

Questioning the US spy flights

  “… When it was over the Yellow Sea, the RC-135S reconnaissance aircraft used a hex code allocated to a Philippine aircraft, but reverted back to its original number after completing its mission, the SCSPI said…”, and more details followed which the US could not and never denied when confronted, answering only that they did nothing illegal – which is nothing but double-talk.

 Our Philippine defense and security authorities responded in early October by relaying in public their concerns to the U.S. Embassy. Secretary Delfin Lorenzana gave the benefit of the doubt to the Americans, texting to ABS-CBN “Let’s get the facts before we make conclusions. Personally, I can’t think of any reason why the US would do it…”

 National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon was more forthright, “Wala pa kaming update (We still don’t have an update). We have yet to get the reaction of the US Embassy (in Manila) but it is important to ask them and caution them or inform them if they have not known about that there (are US) pilots (who) have been using the codes that belong to Philippine aircraft…”

 Almost four months have passed now and the Filipino public has not heard anything from our officials about the reply of the US Embassy, if any, to their queries. It is about time that we raise the issue again for the US is again caught in a new deceitful style of abusively surveilling our region, our borders and our Asian neighbors’ territories surreptitiously and illegally.

Increased Chinese patrols? Really?

 The US ostensibly helps the Philippines and the region monitor Chinese naval and other security or defense activities in the South China Sea through reports of the AMTI (Asia Maritime Transparency Institute). These reports have often proven to be misinformation or outright disinformation to stir up tension against China in the South China Sea.

 Just this week, the first week of December, the AMTI reports through its allied media outlet ABS-CBN headlined Dec. 6, 2020 that “China increased patrols in disputed sea during pandemic: report” with photos of “Zhaoyu-class patrol ships at Scarborough Shoal” dated May 14, 2020. One immediately detects the malicious deception by looking at the date of the headline and the photo evidence dated eight months earlier.

The AMTI and its allied Philippine mainstream media outlets like ABS-CBN have for too long monopolized the supposed monitoring and reporting on these South China Sea issues and waylaid readers, but there is good news now as the counter-monitoring SCSPI in now in the picture to check and counter-check the US-AMTI monitoring information.

SCSPI reports on new US surveillance ploy

 The latest posting on the SCSPI website reports “U.S. Flying Civilian Contractor Aircraft to Spy on China…”, and what is interesting for the Philippines is that those same US contracted civilian spy planes (which could be anyway be owned by a “CIA” front company) has also be monitored to be conducted surveillance and reconnaissance in the Philippines’ southern regions, i.e. Mindanao. Of course, the US can claim these flights to be part of their treaty obligations.

Tenax and Lasai Aviation uses the same Bombardier CL-650 series recon aircraft for US espionage missions over China. The Canadian-manufactured aircraft has a retrofit of sophisticated spy equipment inside the plane with an external radar dome shown above.
In the case of the Beechcraft “King Air” B350 low-altitude reconnaissance propeller aircraft, the radar dome is on top of the plane, with intricate reinforcements under the hull.

The SCSPI identified three US civilian aircrafts, 1) Tenax Bombardier CL-604 maritime surveillance aircraft; 2) Lasai Aviation Bombardier CL-650 reconnaissance aircraft; 3) Beechcraft “King Air” B350 low-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The last plane mainly carried out surveillance missions over Mindanao from Manila in support of US Special Forces, according to the report.

The CL-604 lacking aerial refueling capacity uses Clark Air Base for refueling when flying South China Sea missions, the Lasai Bombardier CL-650 uses the Alaska air bases and the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, the Fort Campbell Ari Base in Kentucky and Misawa Air Base in Japan. The latter is rerouted to cover the East China Sea as well as on missions to the South China Sea.

Complex tracking of US civilian spy contractors

 The report includes detailed tracking of the routes the individual private US spy airplanes traveled in the periods each one was being tracked. A map showing the point-to-point flights and landings, stopovers, dates depicted the events. The details were amazing, showing the sophistication of the tracking capability backing up SCSPI’s monitoring.

The SCSPI report asks why the U.S. is sending civilian contractor aircrafts. It suggests that one reason is “enhancing the military-civilian joint combat capability; 2) dealing with “gray zone” challenges which the uses actually uses more than other countries but blames other countries for; 3) alleviating the shortage of U.S. aerial reconnaissance capabilities in the region.

The SCSPI shows that Chinese intelligence on US operations in our region is quite sophisticated and comprehensive, and I suspect even more comprehensive now than ever before compared to the US as, for example, China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has more satellites now than the US GPS. US economic constraints are a major reason for shrinking US capabilities, a condition expected to worsen with the US pandemic and economic crisis today.

What’s AMTI “increased Chinese patrols” ploy’s point?

I wondered what the AMTI-ABS CBN and Philippine mainstream media’s time-warped and distorted reports of “China increased patrols in disputed sea during pandemic” releases starting December 6, 2020 are intended for. My first suspicion is that this is to create a welcome-fireworks for the visit to Manila of the US acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller recently appointed by Trump.

 Alternately: was the sensational fake news of “increased patrols” an anticipation of the release and a distraction to the SCSPI information about the new style of US contracting private planes to do the intelligence and reconnaissance flights covering the China Sea and internal Philippine territory to cover it up or mute it as much as possible.

The Philippines must be alert

The Philippines is faced with a new episode of doubtful acts and intentions from its so-called ally, the USA. The Western superpower is struggling to maintain its hegemony over Asia and the Philippines. It is a hegemony President Rodrigo R. Duterte has sought to free his nation and his region from. As in the case of the illegal use of Philippine air codes for US spy plane, our defense and security authorities must demand an explanation from the US representatives posthaste.

The Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian has called the US Secretary of Defense Miller’s mission to Asia a mission to “sow chaos”, whiih is what the US has been doing in the entire post-WWII era to maintain its global hegemony.

The Philippines must stay alert to these crafty plays and ploys of it traditional ally, as they say: With a “friend” like this Miller and the US, who needs enemies?

Defense Secretaries Christopher Miller and Delfin Lorenzana of the United States and the Philippines, respectively in an informal huddle outside the formal bilateral meeting where the Americans announced their latest donation of P1.4 billion worth of US military equipment, mostly defense gear, including sniper rifles and anti-improvised explosive device equipment. Earlier, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien also visited the country in November, pledging ₱868 million to the AFP for equipment and training.  In addition, a C130 military transport aircraft will also be delivered to the Philippines on December 17 The Philippine Navy also acquired its first ScanEagle unmanned aerial system, which cost P710 million, through a grant under the US Maritime Security Initiative Program.

(Join: “Power Thinks” with Herman “Ka Mentong” Laurel and guests: Every Wednesday 6pm Live on Global Talk News Radio (GTNR) on Facebook and Talk News TV on YouTube; and Every Sunday 8 to 10am on RP1 738 on your AM radio dial.)

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