US Warns China Of Intense Patrolling In South China Sea: China Says US Stoking Tensions

By @diplomatist10 on
US NAVY
IN PHOTO: U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships steam in formation during their military manoeuvre exercise known as Keen Sword 15 in the sea south of Japan, in this November 19, 2014 handout provided by the U.S. Navy. Reuters/Stringer

The United States has warned China that it will not remain passive to its activities in the South China Sea. The U.S. officials maintained that air and sea patrols in the international waters will be stepped up despite Wednesday’s incident of Chinese Navy trying to intercept U.S. surveillance plane in the airspace above the artificial islands that China is making in the disputed South China Sea.

The U.S. plane was warned by Chinese navy eight times when the crew of a U.S. P8-A Poseidon was over flying the Spratly reef, according to CNN. When the American pilots retorted that the plane was cruising an international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said: “This is the Chinese navy ... You go.” The Poseidon was flying at a low altitude of 4,500 meters and took video of the Spratly reef and released it later.

Referring to the incident, Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel told Reuters in Washington that the U.S. reconnaissance flight was "entirely appropriate" and U.S. naval forces and military aircraft would "continue to fully exercise" the right to operate in international waters and airspace. The U.S. surveillance flight also followed the passing of Fort Worth, the U.S Navy’s littoral combat ship close to the Spratly Islands recently.

The footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon and aired by CNN, showed hectic construction and dredging activity in the presence of Chinese navy ships nearby. "We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy," Captain Mike Parker, commander of U.S. surveillance aircraft said and added he was confident that it came from ashore, pointing to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef.

China Flays The U.S.

Meanwhile, China described the U.S. surveillance flights over the South China Sea as a “threat to the region” and warned of accidents in the air or at sea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the surveillance activity by a U.S. plane is threatening China's islands and reefs. China has  been claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea, through which an annual $5 trillion ship-borne trade passes. Parts of South China sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

China’s military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef include a runway of 3,000 metres that may go operational in the next few months, according to a U.S. commander. Washington is concerned that China will use the new bases to press ahead with its extensive territorial claims and subjugate the weaker rivals further and keep them under pressure.

Ashton Carter’s Visit

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times reports that Pentagon’s release of videos from the dust-up and the sailing of a U.S. warship through the Spratlys are indicative of a new willingness by the U.S to publicly confront Beijing. It said the timing need not be missed- Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s upcoming visit to Asia in the last week of May, primarily for security talks in the region, which is getting rattled by China's policies and posturings. Carter will be visiting India, Singapore and Vietnam.

The friction in South China has also raised anxiety among senior Chinese officials, who fear that the U.S. military "has effectively boxed in China.” This was mentioned by Jeff Smith, Director of Asia security programs at the American Foreign Policy Council in an article contributed to the Foreign Affairs magazine.

(For feedback/comments, contact the writer at k.kumar@ibtimes.com.au)

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