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US Surveillance Has Spotted China Doing Something Disturbing In Contested Waters

US Surveillance Has Spotted China Doing Something Disturbing In Contested Waters

Tensions between the United States and China continue to rise over Beijing’s decision to build artificial islands in the South China Sea. Recent U.S. military surveillance revealed that China has placed military equipment on at least one of the islands, which now has a runway able to service any aircraft in the nation’s air force.

A U.S. official confirmed to Fox News on Friday that China has put artillery pieces on its man-made islands, which have since disappeared from sight. Their range could potentially reach neighboring islands, including one occupied by Vietnam.

A CNN crew was given the opportunity to accompany the Navy on a surveillance flight over the disputed islands in the Spratly chain last week. During the course of that flight alone, the U.S. Naval aircraft received eight warnings from the Chinese Navy to leave the area.

The Navy released audio of one of the warnings: “Foreign military aircraft. This is the Chinese Navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately…You go!”

A Delta Airlines aircraft flight crew flying nearby and listening on the frequency became concerned that they were the target of the Chinese Navy and asked what was happening. The Chinese Navy assured the commercial airliner it was not in danger.

China has lodged an official complaint with the United States concerning its surveillance of Chinese artificial islands under construction.

“China urges the U.S., think three times before taking action; act responsibly; stop all provocative speech and acts; and do more things that will benefit the region’s peace and stability instead of the opposite,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday.

The U.S. Navy told CNN that the larger and more developed the islands have become, the more frequent and aggressive the Chinese actions have been towards the United States’ surveillance of them. In the last two years, China has expanded, through land reclamation, the area it claims in the South China Sea from 5 acres to over 2000 acres over multiple artificial islands.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently called for a “lasting halt” to the Chinese land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, calling them de-stabilizing. Further, he said that the United States would continue to monitor Chinese’ actions in the region. “There should be no mistake about this. The United States will fly, sail, and operate where international law allows, which we do all around the world,” he said.

The Pentagon announced that when the U.S.S. Fort Worth conducted a weeklong patrol in the Spratly Islands chain, including Fiery Cross Reef, a Chinese guided missile frigate, the Yancheng, followed the American vessel for a time, the New York Times reports. The Navy plans to continue similar patrols in the region. Fiery Cross Island, with its new airstrip, has been called “China’s unsinkable aircraft carrier.”

Image Credit: U.S. Navy

One of the major concerns of the United States and its allies in the region is that China, after completing more construction of its islands, may impose sea and air restrictions in the Spratlys. One-third of the world’s ship-borne commerce (totalling over $5 trillion in value) passes through the region each year, which is greater than the Panama and Suez Canals combined. More

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