CHINA’s armed forces told a US Navy reconnaissance plane to “leave immediately” on six separates occasions today during a tense flight over the South China Sea. By Joshua Nevett / Published 10th August 2018
China warn US Navy for flying past South China Sea islands
The P-8A Poseidon jet was flying close to disputed territory over the South China Sea when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) issued the series of alarming warnings.
Flying at an altitude of 16,500ft, the P-8A swooped within view of a number of artificial military islands constructed by the Chinese military in the hotly contested sea.
A CNN journalist was aboard the P-8A plane, dubbed the “submarine killer”, when it flew past four major artificial islands apparently stockpiled with military structures, buildings and aircraft.
As the Poseidon passed by the Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef and Mischief Reef, the PLA told the US Navy crew to withdraw from the area six times.
“US military aircraft, this is China … leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,” a representative of the PLA said.
On each occasion, the US Navy crew aboard the plane refused to obey their orders.
In response, the US Navy crew said: “I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state.
“In exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”
ARTIFICIAL: A construction within the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea
“Leave immediately and keep out”
China and several neighbouring countries have been locked in a bitter and long-running dispute over who controls territories in the South China Sea, a region rich in natural resources.
Beijing has claims over most of the territories, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim they have a stake in the region.
Beijing claims the waters by right, despite a UN ruling in 2016 deciding the disputed region does not belong to China.
As a result, China has been claiming unoccupied land on reefs and shoals to build de-facto military outposts to intimidate rivals with competing claims.
“It was surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean,” said Lt. Lauren Callen, who was leading the air combat crew aboard the Navy flight.
The Pentagon is weighing a more assertive programme of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs to counter its expansion.
Chinese foreign ministry officials have claimed the US is “running amok” in the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “By playing up the so-called China’s militarisation in the South China Sea, certain people in the US are staging a farce of a thief crying ‘stop thief’.
“It is self-evident to a keener eye that who is militarising the South China Sea.”
CHINA: Beijing has been boosting its navy in the South China Sea
The incident comes after China tested a hypersonic aircraft that can carry “unstoppable” nuclear warheads at staggering speeds of 4,563 mph.
A team of scientists conducted the first successful flight of the Starry Sky-2 hypersonic aircraft at a secret location in northwest China on Friday last week.
A statement issued by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), which oversaw the testing process, said the flight was a “huge success” in a statement on Monday.