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China begins local search for missing airliner

Flight MH370 Kuala Lumpur to Beijing
Flight MH370 Kuala Lumpur to Beijing

China informed the government of Malaysia on March 18 that it has ordered a search of Chinese territory for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. There has been no search of Chinese territory since the aircraft went missing ten days ago, despite the flight’s destination being Beijing.

China's ambassador to Malaysia indicated it was possible that Flight MH370 crossed into Chinese airspace undetected.

Search efforts have currently been focused on India, a corridor of Central Asia, the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Thailand and beginning early on March 18 in waters neighboring Australia.

The full range of possible flight for MH370 covers the entire length and breadth of China except for the extreme northeast of the nation along the Amur River border with Russia. The entire nation of Mongolia is also encompassed within that arc of possible flight.

When Flight MH370 went missing on March 8, the first radio and television reports in the region indicated the Boeing 777 disappeared after crossing Vietnam and entering the Gulf of Tonkin. Initial search efforts began in that region, stretching to Hong Kong before being refocused first to the Gulf of Thailand south of Vietnam; the Straits of Malacca west of Malaysia and finally the Indian Ocean and points further west.

The flight path of MH370 as scheduled would have taken the aircraft over China’s Hainan Island which contains a major Chinese naval base before crossing the coast of mainland China continuing on to Beijing. The remainder of the flight would have been over land.

In the weeks before Flight MH370 went missing there had been indications Beijing intended to establish a second Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) beyond Chinese borders over the South China Sea stretching from the border area between Vietnam and China, far south to the Spratly Islands near the Philippines, ownership of which is disputed by China.

There is currently in fact a standoff taking place between Chinese vessels and Philippine Marines manning a derelict vessel in that disputed island chain.

After China established their first new air defense zone over the disputed Senkaku Islands held by Japan, China instituted additional new requirements that all aircraft including civil airliners file flight plans with Beijing prior to any flight that would enter Chinese air defense zones.

Such requirements included passenger and crew manifests and technical aircraft information which most probably included the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) codes of each aircraft.

There have also been an increasing number of flights by Russian long range ‘Bear’ bombers from the Russian Far East, to the South China Sea which parallel the Chinese coast before turning north near the old border formerly dividing Vietnam between north and south.

The Russian bombers then fly towards China and approach Hainan Island before turning east to back track along the original course from whence they came on the return trip to Russia.

If flight MH370 approached along a similar vector to Hainan Island after crossing Vietnam and either had not filed a flight plan with Chinese authorities or was not ‘squawking’ IFF code indicating it was a civil airline flight it is entirely possible that Chinese air defense doctrine may have compelled an engagement of the aircraft as a hostile incursion; with or without an attempt first to establish radio contact.

One indication this may have occurred is the release of satellite imagery by China on March 12 of a now discredited photo that Beijing claimed to be imagery of aircraft wreckage floating in the water near the Gulf of Thailand. China claimed to have had the photo for four days yet did not disclose it, or the location of the supposed wreckage, nor was any Chinese vessels ordered to that location during or after the four days.

If such a terribly unfortunate event occurred, the humiliation for Beijing would be severely damaging to the Communist regime both at home and abroad.

Aside from having destroyed a civil airliner carrying 153 of its own citizens, the entire incident will have been due to Beijing’s new flight rules regarding air defense zones established for the sole purpose of presenting a more aggressive military posture towards its neighbors.

Beijing is undoubtedly aware of the role the fiery shoot down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 by the Soviet Union, played in that former regimes eventual collapse.

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