A disturbing report from China last week highlighted the increasing tension that surrounds Beijing's expanding interests in our region. According to Liu Yuejin, commander of the formidable anti-drug police in southern China, Beijing had prepared plans and planes last year to attack the drug lord Naw Kham inside Myanmar with a drone aircraft. It would have been the first such use of drones in the Asean region. China would have become just the fourth country to use drones to attack another nation. And it could have been an act of war.
Mr Liu's superiors cancelled plans to use the drones to attack Myanmar. They wanted Naw Kham captured alive, for a show trial. The Shan drug lord was accused of masterminding attacks that killed 13 Chinese sailors inside Thailand on the Mekong River. The Chinese succeeded in capturing Naw Kham, and he is on death row in China, and likely to be executed soon.
The casual reference by Mr Liu to the planned drone attack, however, is the latest threat from China concerning the Asean region. Beijing's claims on the China Sea are better known, and are currently taken more seriously because they have brought armed clashes in several cases. But both the air and naval warnings are part of a new Chinese tone in its foreign relations. It bears directly on our region.