TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A U.S. Navy aircraft was issued at least six threats from by the Chinese military as it flew around the Spratly islands where Beijing has claimed sovereignty and militarized several islands.
According to reports, the U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, with CNN reporters on board Aug. 11, flew at 16,500 feet to give them a view of low-lying ocean reefs that have been turned into military garrisons by the Chinese armed forces, some with five-story buildings, large radar installations, power plants and runways wide enough to accommodate large military aircraft.
During the flight, the U.S. plane received at least six separate warnings from the Chinese military to immediately leave "Chinese territory," stating that they were not welcome to observe any military activities in the South China Sea.
The message reportedly issued by the Chinese military ordered the U.S. Navy to "leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding."
Reportedly, the U.S. Navy responded with the same answer each time, stating that they were conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state, which is in full compliance with international law.
The U.S. Navy aircraft flew over four key artificial islands in the Spratly chain where China has built military structures and troop garrisons. The islands include Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef and Mischief Reef.
CNN reported that the U.S. aircraft's sensors picked up several coast guard ships out of 86 vessels found docking at a giant lagoon on Subi Reef. Meanwhile, a lengthy runway and rows of hangers were spotted on Fiery Cross Reef.
Issues about the sovereignty of islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea remain contentious amid conflicting claims by several countries, including China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
According to the U.K. daily Express, Beijing claims the waters by right, despite a U.N. ruling in 2016 that decided the disputed region does not belong to China.