US, Chinese aircraft in 'unsafe' encounter over S. China Sea

Trevor Jackson
February 11, 2017

"On Feb. 8, an interaction characterized by U.S. Pacific Command as "unsafe" occurred in worldwide air space above the South China Sea, between a Chinese KJ-200 aircraft and a U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft", US Pacific Command told Reuters.

The two planes came within 1,000ft (300 meters) of each other during Wednesday's incident near the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both the Philippines and China, according to Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis.

The US aircraft was "on a routine mission operating in accordance with global law", US Pacific Command said in a statement.

United States defence secretary James Mattis said all diplomatic efforts should be made to resolve disputes over the South China Sea, and accused China of "shredding the trust" of its neighbours.

U.S. officials slammed the clash as "unsafe" and said they would address the issue in "diplomatic and military channels".

This latest incident comes just as US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shared their first phone-call. Just before becoming president, Trump even accused China of "stealing" a USA underwater drone that, according to a report by The Inquisitr, China said was a situation blown out of proportion by American officials and the media.

"We hope that the U.S. could take the bilateral military relations into consideration and adopt practical measures to eliminate the root cause of air and sea mishaps", the official said.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, May 21, 2015.

The area is claimed as sovereign territory by China, which seized the area from the Philippines in 2012.

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China's blockade of the Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing spot, prompted the previous Philippine government to file a legal case in 2013 with the Hague, Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, infuriating Beijing, which refused to take part.

The move infuriated Beijing, which refused to take part in proceedings, and the court largely rejected Chinese claims a year ago.

In an interview, Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told VOA that while there is an effort by the Chinese to exert control over the South China Sea and treat it like Chinese airspace, it's important to acknowledge that pilots do sometimes make mistakes.

While the court a year ago largely rejected China's claims, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to mend ties with Beijing and the situation around the shoal has largely calmed down.

The policy rules out independence or USA diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, and was first agreed to in 1972 by President Richard Nixon and China's Mao Zedong.

"So we should operate around, above, near those man-made features routinely, limited only by the safety of our ships and the safety of our aircraft".

China has defended its construction in the region.

China is deeply suspicious of any US military activity in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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