A US Navy plane recently flying over the South China Sea reportedly received an ominous radio warning from China before the country sent a fighter jet to follow the US plane.
“Do not approach again or you will pay full responsibility,” a voice from a Chinese Air Force ground station told a US Navy P-8 flying outside Chinese airspace over the South China Sea. That reports NBC News.
Shortly afterwards, a Chinese fighter jet positioned itself about 500 feet from the left wing of the American plane, which continued on its course, for more than an hour before it exploded.
US military officials say the encounters are becoming more common in the South China Sea as China seeks to position itself as the dominant force in the area and claims control of many of the sea’s largely uninhabited islands.
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“Most of the time we get no response, sometimes we get nonverbal responses. But overall we try to encourage a safe and professional meeting while both of us are operating in international airspace,” Capt. Will Toraason, the U.S. Navy’s Surveillance Aircraft Commander, told an NBC News reporter who was on the plane at the time.
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“Since I’ve been in the Navy for 18, 19 years now, I can tell you there’s been a dramatic change in that period, particularly in the South China Sea,” said Cmdr. Marc Hines said, which is partly due to the fact that China has been building artificial islands and runways in the South China Sea in recent years.
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The interaction between the two military superpowers comes weeks after tensions flared over a Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the United States for several days before being shot down by the United States off the coast of South Carolina.
During a “confrontational” meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi about two weeks later, Blinken told his counterpart that the balloon incident “must never happen again”.
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China has openly criticized the United States over the incident, calling its reaction to the balloon “hysterical” and that the decision to shoot down the balloon was an “absurd” violation of international standards.