A Chinese state-owned newspaper has seemingly warned Australia that its planes could be shot down if it continues to practise “freedom of navigation” over the disputed areas of the South China Sea. The warning came after a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) surveillance plane carried out its international freedom of navigation rights over the disputed Spratly Island and alerted the Chinese navy of its operations.

The editorial, which has been written in an angry tone in the Chinese edition of the Global Times, warned Australia that its planes could be shot out of the sky if such operations continue.

An RAAF pilot could be heard sending out an alert message to the Chinese navy in a radio recording broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday. “China navy, China navy,” the voice said. “We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — over.”

According to BBC, the message was recorded by it from a RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft on Nov. 25. The Chinese navy was alerted several times but there was no response from the other end.

The much toned down version of the editorial in English read, "Australia should not count on being welcomed or accepted" if it enters the airspace around the disputed regions. "The Chinese people cannot understand why the Australian military would get involved, and to be honest, they have less patience to prevent a flare up," the editorial further said. "Australian military planes better not regularly come to the South China Sea to 'get involved' and especially don't test China's patience by flying close to China's islands. Everyone has always been careful, but it would be a shame if one day a plane fell from the sky and it happened to be Australian."

Tensions over the already disputed South China Sea escalated when China transformed reefs in the region into islands with military capacities. The US said the move violates the right of freedom of navigation by other nations through the area through which one-third of the world’s oil passes.

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said that the flight was a part of an operation known as the Operation Gateway, that has been in process since 1980. She added that the Chinese are supposed to know that Australia supports freedom of navigation and freedom of flight in accordance with the international law of the sea.

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