China has lodged a protest with the US embassy after the Pentagon sent a reconnaissance aircraft over an area where live-fire military drills were being conducted in the northern military region in the Bohai sea. China also sent another message, firing two ‘aircraft carrier killer’ missiles into the South China Sea.
The US has been accused of sending a U-2 reconnaissance plane into an area that was previously declared to be a no-fly zone to fly over Chinese live-fire military drills that were being on Tuesday (25 May), another provocative move adjacent to China’s borders that will keep tensions between Beijing and Washington high for the foreseeable future.
China’s Defence Ministry called the unauthorized U-2 flight an unsafe practice and said that it constituted a threat “seriously interfering in normal exercise activities”.
The statement warned that an ‘unexpected incident’ could have easily resulted, which presumably means the spy plane may have been targeted as a perceived threat to the military units’ security.
In a statement responding to China’s strong diplomatic and public protests, the US military said a U-2 flight was conducted in the Indo-Pacific region and it was “within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights.
Pacific Air Forces personnel will continue to fly and operate anywhere international law allows, at the time and tempo of our choosing.” LINK
The U-2 aircraft can fly at over 70,000 feet and effectively carry out reconnaissance activity at long range, therefore it was not necessary for it to enter the no-fly zone to monitor the military exercises and it is difficult to interpret it as anything other than a deliberate provocation meant to further antagonize Beijing.
In an unusual move, this week China’s military has been conducting parallel military exercises in four separate areas, including drills in the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea and South China Sea.
Presumably as a response to the Pentagon’s derisive attitude to Chinese concerns about US military activity adjacent to its borders, which have included numerous sorties by nuclear capable long-range strategic bombers and extended manoeuvres in the South China Sea by three US aircraft carrier strike groups over the last few months, China launched two missiles – including an ‘aircraft-carrier killer’ – into the South China Sea on Wednesday morning (25 August), sending a clear warning to the United States of China’s ability to defend its territory and adjacent areas.
One of the missiles, a DF-26B, was launched from the north-western province of Qinghai, while the other, a DF-21D, lifted off from Zhejiang province in the east. Both missiles were fired into an area between Hainan province and the Paracel Islands, the South China Morning Post reported.
The DF-26 has a range of 4,000km (2,485 miles) and can be used in nuclear or conventional strikes against ground and naval targets.
The DF-21 has a range of around 1,800km, with state media describing the most advanced in the series, the DF-21D, as the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile.
The Chinese news agency’s source said the missile launch was aimed at improving China’s ability to deny other forces access to the South China Sea, a disputed region.
“This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea,” the source said. “China doesn’t want the neighbouring countries to misunderstand Beijing’s goals.”
Earlier this month, the PLA held military exercises near Taiwan “to safeguard national sovereignty”, exercises that coincided with US Health Secretary Alex Azar’s trip to the island.
In July, China’s People’s Liberation Army conducted military exercises in the South China, East China and Yellow seas, while two US aircraft carriers conducted tactical air defence exercises in the South China Sea – manoeuvres the US said were “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Besides aircraft carriers, the US military has also sent a record number of aircraft and warships to monitor Chinese activity and conduct military manoeuvres in 2020.
The Chinese military drills have caused unease among its neighbours. Vietnam asked China to cancel its military drills around the Paracel Islands, saying they violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and were detrimental to China-ASEAN talks on elaborating a South China Sea code of conduct.
In a related development, late last week Taiwanese television broadcast a video of a military exercise simulating an attack against the island. The film was produced by the defence ministry, and showed troops firing anti-aircraft, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles against a mock invasion force from across the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from mainland China.
In a statement accompanying the film, the ministry said Beijing should not underestimate the island’s determination to defend itself.
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