On the day the Vietnamese media revealed images
of China’s rapidly expanding artificial islands in the East Sea (aka South China Sea), the Chinese navy warned a US surveillance plane flying over those features to leave the area eight times.
At one stage, after the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: “This is the Chinese navy … You go!” Reuters reported Thursday, citing CNN, which was on board the flight on Wednesday.
The P8-A Poseidon, the US military’s most advanced surveillance aircraft, flew at 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) at its lowest point, CNN said.
Just last week, the Pentagon said it was weighing sending US military aircraft and ships to assert the freedom of navigation around the Spratly island chain in the East Sea, where China has been cranking up the construction of artificial islands.
… “Along with submarine encounters, air encounters have higher risks than surface encounters. They can be the most sensitive and difficult to manage,” said Sam Bateman, a maritime security analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“A dangerous air encounter possibly has the highest likelihood of going wrong – the air space around the disputed islands can be very busy with so many different air forces possibly operating in the area,” Bateman said.