China remains adamant following the incident with the U.S. Navy on Thursday that led them to send out J-11 fighter jets in order to intercept a U.S. EP-3 aircraft that had been on a surveillance mission. The Pentagon says the aircraft’s activities were nothing but “a routine U.S. patrol.” The Chinese want it to stop immediately.
Contrary to the Pentagon’s belief, Beijing is saying that its two aircraft conducted an operation that “was completely in keeping with safety and professional standards.”
Moreover, Hong Lei also stressed that what that frequent reconnaissance by the U.S. is “seriously endangering maritime and airspace security.”
The latest incident shows increased tensions along the South China Sea with China involved in a host of territorial disputes with countries such as the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Earlier this month, China also responded similarly to a U.S. patrol that was done near China’s Nansha Islands. China’s Ministry of National Defense said that the USS William P. Lawrence entered the waters near the Yongshu Reef in Nansha Islands illegally.
In response, the Chinese scrambled two J-11 fighter jets and one Y-8 AWACs from the PLA Navy’s aviation force.
When the U.S. said it was merely conducting a freedom of navigation operations, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang responded, “When talking about the importance of navigation freedom to smaller countries, the US official seems to forget once again to clarify whether it is navigation freedom of commercial vessels or willful trespassing of naval warships that he is referring to.”
He also stressed that the UNCLOS or United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea did not state that military vessels have a right to make passage “through others territorial waters.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. had also decided to increase its military presence in ally country Philippines after it was found that China had built an island on top of the Scarborough Shoal, a territory the Philippines is also laying claim to.
The Philippines had also tried to bring the matter for arbitration at The Hague, but China is refusing to give the tribunal’s upcoming decision any validity. It is believed that it will rule in the Philippines’ favor.
Today, China is still stressing that it prefers to hold bilateral talks with the Philippines instead of participating in an arbitration. It has also told the U.S. and other allies such as the U.K. to stay out of the issue.
Also read: South China Sea WW3: US Military Plane ‘Unsafely’ Intercepted By China