May 2015 – SOUTH CHINA SEA – A Chinese navy dispatcher demanded eight times Wednesday that a U.S. Air Force P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft leave the area as it flew over Fiery Cross Reef, where China has conducted extensive reclamation work on what it claims as sovereign territory. When the U.S. crew responded that it was flying in international airspace, the Chinese dispatcher answered, “This is the Chinese navy…. You go!” The U.S. plane, which was operating from an air base in the Philippines, received eight warnings from the Chinese during the mission. Verbal sparring is common between the two militaries, but the Pentagon decision to release two videos and audio recordings from the dust-up a day earlier — less than a week after it disclosed that a U.S. warship also had sailed through the Spratlys — shows a new willingness to publicly confront Beijing for expanding construction projects in waters believed to be rich in oil and gas, and close to vital shipping lanes.
U.S. officials said they are determined to preserve freedom of international navigation and airspace, but are not seeking to provoke a confrontation with China. The jockeying comes as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter heads to Asia next week on a trip intended to shore up security alliances in a region increasingly nervous about China’s policies. He will visit Singapore, Vietnam and India. Regional tension has grown since President Obama announced a so-called U.S. strategic pivot to Asia four years ago, in part to keep an eye on a fast-rising China. The administration has shifted ships and troops to the Western Pacific and expanded military ties with several countries worried about China’s growing clout, including Japan, the Philippines, Australia and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam. The renewed American focus on the region appears to have led to unintended consequences, however. Beijing has become more aggressive in asserting its maritime and territorial claims in the South China and East China seas.
Some senior Chinese officials fear that the U.S. military “has effectively ‘boxed in’ China,” Jeff Smith, director of Asia security programs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a Philadelphia think tank, wrote in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine. The Chinese are “eager to punish neighbors such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines — and even India — who they believe capitalized on a period of relative Chinese weakness to assume control of disputed islands in the South and East China Seas,” he said. For now, U.S. officials believe they can pressure China to scale back its island-building by galvanizing other Asian governments against it. In recent months, the U.S. has encouraged Japan to begin naval patrols in the South China Sea, where it doesn’t normally sail, and provided ships and other equipment to the Philippine and Vietnamese coast guards.
“As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust, undermining investor confidence and challenging the energy security upon which all of us depend,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a speech Wednesday in Jakarta, Indonesia. The U.S. surveillance flight came less than a week after the Fort Worth, a Navy littoral combat ship designed for near-shore operations, passed close to the Spratly Islands, where the Chinese are dredging sand and building up five reefs.
Pentagon officials said the patrol was meant to show that Washington does not accept China’s claims that seas surrounding the disputed reefs constitute Chinese territorial waters. Chinese navy ships tailed the U.S. vessel during the patrol. “What you’re seeing by the U.S. is a calculated, transparent effort to reveal the situation in all of its details and potential dangers,” said Mira Rapp Hooper, an expert in maritime disputes at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. But when military forces operate in such proximity, she warned, “there is always the danger of inadvertent or accidental escalation.” –LA Times
China warns war with US may be inevitable
Global Times, a tabloid newspaper run by the Communist Party, said that China might have to “accept” there would be conflict with the United States. “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea”, said the paper, which is often seen as a mouth-piece of hardline nationalists in the government in Beijing. –Telegraph
US vows to continue flights over disputed islands
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States vowed on Thursday to keep up air and sea patrols in international waters after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a U.S. surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea. The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a U.S. P8-A Poseidon, the U.S. military’s most advanced surveillance aircraft, when it conducted the over-flights on Wednesday, according to CNN, which was aboard the U.S. aircraft.
The Poseidon flew as low as 15,000 feet (4,500 meters), CNN said, and video provided by the Pentagon appeared to have been taken from directly above one artificial island. The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggested Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands there. Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a U.S. official said last week that the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands. –Yahoo News