What's behind Venezuela's interception of U.S. plane

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that he has ordered two F-16 jets to intercept a U.S. military plane that twice violated Venezuelan airspace earlier in the day.

Chavez said the U.S. military plane, based on the Netherlands' Curacao island in the Caribbean, intruded in defiance of Venezuelan warnings, and were forced out of the Venezuelan airspace. The president said the U.S. provocative move was aimed at finding an excuse to launch a military attack against venezuela. However, the U.S. military has denied the allegation.

If the incident did happen, what would Chavez's tough and high-profile reaction affect the Venezuelan-U.S. relationship?

Political friction has been common between the two countries since Chavez took power in 1999. In September 2008, the two countries mutually expelled ambassadors.

Since U.S. President Barack Obama took office in 2009, Chavez has been looking forward to improving the bilateral ties. In April 2009, Chavez and Obama met on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of American States. Two months later, the ambassadorial-level diplomatic relationship was restored between the two countries.

However, the short honeymoon was terminated by two major incidents: the Venezuelan government accused the U.S. government of masterminding a Honduras coup in late June, and denounced a military cooperation agreement between Colombia and the United States on the lease of seven Colombian military bases.

The United States said its agreement with Colombia was aimed at fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, but Venezuela and many other Latin American countries said the agreement posed a grave threat to regional peace, security and stability.

Venezuela said the agreement was "utterly unacceptable," because the United States' real intention was to use Colombia as a platform to strengthen its presence in and reinforce its control over Latin America, so as to restore its influence in the region, suppress left-wing governments, interfere with Latin American affairs and stem regional integration.

In the following diplomatic campaign, Venezuela reduced weapon imports from Colombia, froze diplomatic ties with the country and put further pressure on it. However, all the efforts failed to prevent Colombia and the United States from signing the agreement on Oct. 30.

From early December, the Venezuelan government complained for several times that unmanned reconnaissance planes from Colombia entered its airspace. It also produced evidence to show that the United States was preparing to use Dutch "colonial territories" of Aruba and Curacao as platforms to attack Venezuela.

On the one hand, the latest interception of the U.S. plane by Venezuela was to show its tough stance against the United States and send a warning to Colombia. On the other hand, Venezuela intended to achieve a favorable position and take a upper hand its struggle with the U.S. in the world media.

As western media have given a full coverage of the incident, both pro-government and opposition media in Venezuela only reported the news as an insignificant story.

The sharp contrast reflected that the Venezuelan people have been accustomed to their country's frequent frictions with the United States. At the same time, few people are worried about the possible deterioration of the U.S.-Venezuelan ties.

Despite the ideological and political differences that often caused tension between Venezuelan and U.S. governments, their economic and trade relations have been going well.

As more than 1 million barrels of oil are exported to the United States daily, incoming U.S. dollars support Venezuela's huge social programs and government reforms.

The United States has been sensitive over Venezuela's close relationship with Iran, its nationalization trend and its procurement of weapons from Russia. But analysts said the Latin American country would not become a priority in U.S. foreign policies.

A continued status quo is probably what is expected for the ties between Venezuela and the United States. As minor friction may continue to happen, further deterioration of ties or military actions are not likely to happen.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Venezuelan parliament foreign policy committee member Roy Daza said the main objective of the Venezuelan foreign policy this year is to continue to oppose the establishment of U.S. military bases in Colombia and to prevent the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia agreement by all necessary means, because the issue involves Venezuela's "core national security interests."

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