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Intelligence Gathering in the Maritime Domain: Is China Using Double Standards?

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Lieutenant Commander Tuan N. Pham, a serving U.S. Naval Officer with considerable experience in ‘intelligence,’ has published a critique of my recent article “The China –US Spying Debate” (IPP Review, August 4; republished in the Diplomat on August 4 as “The US-China Maritime Surveillance Debate”). Pham’s article –written in his personal capacity and entitled “Chinese Double Standards in the Maritime Domain”– appeared in the Diplomat on August 16. In it he critiques an article by an author he does not identify that in his words “tries to explain and justify [China’s] AGI (maritime intelligence gathering) activities.” I am that author.

While I am flattered that Pham tries to interpret Chinese policy from my opinion piece, I am sorry to disappoint him. My ideas and opinions are totally my own and I have not consulted or discussed them with anyone — Chinese or otherwise. In short they certainly do not — as he postulates — represent “a nuanced pivot in Chinese legal and diplomatic position,” a “trial balloon,” or “set the conditions for future ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] operations.” Rather, they are solely the result of my analysis of each country’s kinetic capabilities and activities and their relevant legal and diplomatic positions.

Regarding the substance of his critique, Pham maintains that China is hypocritically using double standards regarding ISR activities by opposing them in its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) while undertaking them in others’ EEZs.

Pham writes:

…despite all of China’s grandiloquence........

© The Diplomat