Radio communications warn of ‘possible consequences.’
Even as the ASEAN ministerial gathering is focused on finding a diplomatic solution to the freedom of navigation issues in the South China Sea, it appears China is pushing for war with one of its neighbors.
A new report from the Philippine government shows that in the second half of last year, its military aircraft received nearly four dozen radio warnings from the Chinese while on patrol near the disputed Spratly Islands. The report suggests that these warnings are originating from the islands themselves, where Beijing has deployed electronic warfare equipment, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers.
The radio messages are a relatively new escalation of the quasi-war state between China and the Philippines over the islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia. In January, a Philippine Air Force aircraft on patrol near the islands received the following warning, followed by two warning flares fired from a nearby reef:
“Your presence is endangering the security of the Chinese reef. Leave immediately and keep off to avoid misunderstanding.
“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again. Leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences.”
Washington has made it clear that international law allows any country the freedom to navigate—by air or by sea—in the area, and that it will continue to do so. Joint Chiefs of Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie also noted:
“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands. It’s just a fact.”
The public affairs officer for the U.S. 7th Fleet has admitted American naval vessels and aircraft have “observed an increase in radio queries” that appear to be coming from China’s military facilities on the man-made islands in the South China Sea. He said the communications have not affected U.S. operations in the area.