China Warns US Plane Over Disputed Islands
Published: May 21, 2015
China Warns US Plane Over Disputed Islands, China’s navy has issued multiple warnings to a US surveillance aircraft to leave the airspace over artificial islands Beijing is building to strengthen its claims over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
The messages, witnessed by a US TV crew aboard the P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft, came soon after the Pentagon said it was considering military patrols in the region and amid concerns that Chinese activity was raising the risk of a confrontation between Washington and Beijing.
CNN reported that a Chinese naval vessel issued eight warnings to the US plane on Wednesday, in an apparent effort to establish a no-fly zone near the artificial islands. When US pilots pointed out that they were flying through international airspace, an exasperated Chinese radio operator responded: “This is the Chinese navy you go!”
The exchange is an indication of what could lie ahead if the US decides to send military aircraft and ships to the area, where China is locked in a battle of wills over ownership of reefs with the Philippines and several other countries.
The incident occurred in the skies above Fiery Cross reef, where China has triggered international anger with the construction of an early-warning radar station and other military facilities on reclaimed land.
TV footage taken from the aircraft showed construction and dredging activity on the newly built islands, together with a strong Chinese naval presence. Experts believe the islands, which include a 3,000-metre-long runway, could be fully operational by the end of the year.
Capt Mike Parker, commander of US surveillance aircraft deployed in Asia, said he believed the aircraft had been challenged by a nearby Chinese vessel.
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