Reports U.S. Deliberately Bombed Chinese Embassy

Published: Sun 24 Oct 1999 03:11 PM
Reports Showing U.S. Deliberately Bombed Chinese Embassy
Deliberately Ignored by U.S. Media
By Yoichi Shimatsu
Pacific News Service
HONG KONG -- The first crack in the US government's version of the May 7 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade came from an agency of the US government. Now, five months later, the official story has crumbled almost entirely -- but you'd never know it from the US media.
Less than 10 days after the bombing, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA ) -- the Pentagon agency that merges maps with satellite data to create "data maps" for high-altitude B-2 bombers -- posted an extraordinary press release on its web site.
"Recent news reports of NIMA maps have been inaccurate or incomplete," it stated.
NATO, the White House and the Pentagon had blamed outdated maps for the bombing. Reporters expressed serious doubts at press conferences, but the US news media accepted the official version of a "mistake" or "accident" -- while thousands of Chinese students, convinced the bombing was intentional, were hurling stones at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
I phoned the mapping agency headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Were the NIMA maps up to date?" I asked.
The answer was affirmative.
"As recently as a month ago?"
"More recent than that."
"A week?"
This information was the core of an article I wrote for a Hong Kong weekly and an television interview challenging the claim of a targeting error.
Now, five months later, two newspapers -- the Observer in London, Politiken in Copenhagen -- jointly reported October 17 that several NATO officials and military officers have admitted that U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was deliberate.
The reporters also quoted a NIMA source as saying that the "wrong map" story was "a damned lie."
"Nearly everyone involved in NATO air operations or (radio) signals command knows that the embassy bombing was deliberate," said Jens Holsoe of Politiken, lead investigative reporter on the team.
The seasoned Danish journalist said he could not make sense of the claim that NATO based its targeting on old city maps, but "couldn't figure out in my own mind why NATO would deliberately bomb the embassy."
However, soon after he entered Kosovo with the first contingent of KFOR troops, he met a NATO electronic intelligence (Elint) officer who told him the Chinese Embassy was being used as a rebro (re-broadcasting) center.
"NATO had been hunting the radio transmitters in Belgrade," the officer said. "When the President's (Milosevic) residence was bombed on 23 April, the signals disappeared for 24 hours. When they came on the air again, we discovered they came from the embassy compound."
In London, Observer reporters interviewed a senior military officer who revealed that NATO had a "two-track" system for selecting targets in Yugoslavia. The first level had to be approved by NATO's chief Javier Solano and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany. A second track, however, was "solely under American control," and consisted of "politically sensitive" targets approved by the president or the National Security Agency.
Observer reporters also quoted a NATO flight control officer in Naples who said the Chinese Embassy appeared on the NATO "no-strike" map at its correct address in New Belgrade, and not at its former address across the river -- as claimed by NATO and the Pentagon.
Following publication of the Observer/Politiken report, News Watch Media Critic, a web magazine based in Washington, found that, except for National Public Radio, "major media organizations had either not heard of the story, were unsure if their organizations were going to chase it up, or were unable to comment." News Watch Editor Trevor Butterworth reports that The New York Times-- the first newspaper to use the terms "mistaken bombing" and "accidental bombing" -- has not yet decided whether it will pursue the story.
The Observer's foreign editor Peter Beaumont, who insisted on learning the identities of the unnamed sources before running the story, confirmed that one of the officials is "at the highest possible level."
Beaumont said the U.S. press will eventually have to face the facts. "This is our first stab at the story, but if it takes two months or 20 years, the truth will finally come out."
Clearly, the U.S. media need to do some soul-searching -- and not just the media. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright responded to the new revelations by saying, "To use the fine diplomatic term, that's balderdash."
Balderdash, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is senseless talk or writing. This archaic word, however, originates from a 16th century term that denotes "a frothy liquid or an unappetizing mixture of drinks." For Albright and others in Washington, the Observer-Politiken report must have left a bitter taste.
Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of theJapan Times Weekly in Tokyo, is the Hong Kong-based author of a forthcoming report on the media coverage of the bombing. Read more Pacific News Service stories at

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