Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is AP and/or the Japanese Government Really Confused About the Difference Between a Fighter Jet and a Surveillance Turboprop?

After raking the Irish Times over the coals for screwing up the headline it tacked onto the Reuters story about the alleged intrusion of a Chinese military aircraft into Japanese airspace by calling a Y-8 turboprop a “fighter plane”, I was…interested? bemused? incensed? to see AP run its story with the fighter plane characterization in the body of the text.  As in:

Tokyo expressed unease Thursday over Chinese military and maritime activity near disputed islands that Japan controls, as China defended a flight by one of its fighter jets near Japanese airspace. 

I think it was a flub by AP, though I would be interested to find out if the reporter was simply passing on an incorrect? misleading? dishonest? characterization by a Japanese government official.

Was it a fighter plane to begin with, and initial Japanese government statements got it wrong?  Or was it a turboprop, which is now turning into a “fighter jet” in order to give the story some more legs?  Inquiring minds want to know.

For military aviation enthusiasts, Wikipedia tells us that the Y-8 turboprop, when converted to an airborne early warning aircraft, is called the KJ-200 Balance Beam.  Why “balance beam”?  Ask a gymnast.  Here is a picture I found on the Internet of this fearsome armament:

Doesn’t look much like a fighter jet.  

 Anybody get a picture of the Chinese intruder?  The great thing about maritime confrontations is that there’s nobody out there except the Japanese Self Defence Forces, so the Japanese government has near total control of the stories that come out.

As I reflect on the ongoing Senkaku/maritime saga, I am increasingly of the opinion that Prime Minister Abe welcomes tensions with China because it gives him a pretext to expand? exceed? the boundaries of the pacifist constitution with new missions and capabilities for the Japanese military without the need to make difficult explanations to the U.S. government and Japan’s neighbors about his manifest desire to transform the Japanese military into a strategic asset: one that not only intimidates and deters Japan’s neighbors and gives Japan the necessary capability and credibility to construct and lead alliances of lesser regional states, but also turns Japan into a self-sufficient and independent actor in the Asian security game: one that can dare ignore or defy the United States, and perhaps even use its unilateral capabilities to force the U.S. to either endorse its actions, follow them…or get out of the way.

So aggressive Japanese government spin about Chinese intentions and actions that push the boundaries of plausibility and truth are to be expected.

As to whether Japan would actively foment or misrepresent confrontations with China, well, for now I leave that interesting question to the intrepid journos of the leading media outlets.

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