Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Calm down, no DF-21D’s heading our way

There’s already enough speculation about China’s intentions out there. We don’t need journalistic irresponsibility to amplify the problem

Readers who are feeling a sense of alarm over recent reports in Taiwanese media that China could test-fire a Dong Feng-21D anti-ship missile in the Taiwan Strait prior to the Jan. 14 elections in Taiwan should note that the article in Defense News from which those claims originate was in fact a Nov. 21 op-ed by Roger Cliff, formerly of RAND Corp and now at the Project 2049 Institute. Once again, media here are omitting to mention that very crucial factor in news making — neglect that got me into no small amount of trouble when a certain newspaper failed to mention that when it did a write-up of one of my op-eds in the Wall Street Journal.

Besides the fact that firing a DF-21D (or any missile, for that matter) off Taiwan mere days prior to a key presidential election in Taiwan would be the height of folly on Beijing’s part (one assumes it learned its lesson from the missile crisis of 1995-96), what Cliff does in his op-ed is merely speculative, based on the auspiciousness of one-one-one, added to the fact that China has used Jan. 11 on previous occasions to conduct “surprise” military tests.

There is a very real difference between “hard news” and opinion. Had that distinction been made, no journalist would have asked a Ministry of National Defense spokesman at a press conference today (and in the process, made a fool of himself) to comment on “alleged plans by China to fire a ‘carrier killer’ missile near Taiwan before the elections.”

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