The Chinese Embassy or FDSP?
The Chinese Embassy was bombed by NATO in Belgrade, 1999. It may not have been an accident. The strike occurred on May 7th, 1999 with 5 JDAMs dropped from B-2 stealth bombers. The incident left 3 Chinese nationals dead. (Source) NATO pointed to miscommunication and outdated maps as the cause. The incident subsequently outraged China.
How could something like this happen?
NATO’s answer was simple; they missed their target by about a block. Their original target was to be the Yugoslav Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement, about 500 meters away. To clarify, the FDSP facilitated the import of military equipment into Belgrade. (Source)
One theory holds that several NATO ELINT (electronic intelligence) officers had detected Serbian army signals coming out of the Chinese embassy and this was the reason for the strike. (Source)
In an unpublished memoir, China’s former president Ziang Zemin admitted that there was a Serbian military intelligence contingent operating in the embassy. (Source) This raises the question of where the people who would operate this equipment were during the strike.
Part of this theory holds that China was housing the equipment because they received parts of the infamously downed F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet. The electronic frequencies received could have been from a GPS system in the jet or from Serbian military equipment.
Croatian Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso said in a phone interview with the AP that Chinese agents bought pieces of the wreckage. Domazet-Loso also went on to say that Serbian military officials confirmed that unknown foreign military attaches procured pieces of the wreckage. (Source)
The motivations for a direct strike are evident. The US-led the world in stealth technology. Subsequently, making it a closely guarded secret. Having it fall into a rising power’s hands, like China, could in effect have unforeseen consequences in the future as China continues to grow at that time.
China’s J-20/31 stealth fighters were made possible through hacks. (source) However, the pieces of the F-117 Nighthawk that China may or may not have taken would still prove invaluable in 1999.
These pieces would serve as a cornerstone to the Chinese understanding and formulation of stealth technology moving forward until the F-35 hack in 2017. (Source) The wreckage, housed at the Belgrade Aeronautical Museum in Serbia, is very incomplete as well. Above all posing the question – who has the rest of it and what happened to it?
This 1999 incident is, on the surface, very mysterious. The US had an overall media blackout about the incident. Then, a US consulate in China was burned as a result. Certainly, the temperament between the US and China grew hotter. Looking deeper, it is clear that elements beyond the public eye were at play.
Multiple reports place the Chinese in the Serbian countryside looking for pieces of the F-117, and NATO ELINT officers corroborate that the signals received in the embassy were from the plane. Also, the US’ answer of mismatched maps and coordinates is not acceptable for a mission of that scale and size.
It is unlikely an official truth about the incident, and whether it was intentional by the US and NATO, will ever actually come out. The situation reeks of a volitional attack by the US to stop the proliferation of advanced military technology. These sorts of situations, truly are a “grey” dynamic in the relative landscape of geopolitics and a polar-istic world.