China calls US bombers flying near Nansha islands ‘serious military provocation’

CCTV News

South China Sea

China’s Defense Ministry on Saturday said that the case that two U.S. B-52 bombers flew near China’s Nansha islands on Dec. 10 is a serious military provocation and that China will take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty.

The information office of the ministry said the Chinese military kept close surveillance on the bombers’ activities and gave it warnings.

CCTV’s Jim Spellman has a timeline of previous incidents between the two countries in and above the waters off China.

China accuses U.S. of military provocation

China accuses U.S. of military provocation

CCTV's Jim Spellman has a timeline of previous incidents between the two countries in and above the waters off China.

It said the United States has sent military vessels and aircraft to the region recently, creating tensions, adding that this behavior threatens the safety of Chinese personnel and facilities on the islands.

It said this is a serious military provocation and will complicate the situation in the South China Sea region.

The ministry called for a stop to this kind of activity and said China will take all measures necessary to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and to maintain regional peace and stability.

In a statement a U.S. Pentagon spokesman wrote: “The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent training mission. We are looking into the matter… for this mission there was no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature. This was not a Freedom of Navigation Operation.”

That phrase “Freedom of Navigation” is important. That is the language the U.S. military uses when it intentionally violates the waters or airspace China claims as its own.

This doesn’t appear to be intentional, but all the same it has doubtlessly raised tensions between China and the United States.

This is the latest in a string of incidents between the two countries in and above the waters off China.

In April 2001, A U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet collided in midair approximately 70 miles (112 kilometers) away from China’s Hainan Island, killing one Chinese pilot and forcing the U.S. aircraft to land, where U.S. crew members were detained.

In Nov. 2013, China established an Air Defense identification Zone in the East China Sea. The U.S. then sent a B-52 bomber through the zone without contacting China.

In Aug. 2014, a U.S. P-8 Poseidon Surveillance Plane was intercepted by Chinese fighters over the South China Sea.

And in Oct. 2015, the US Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12-nautical miles of the Nansha Islands, despite warning from the Chinese navy.

China is urging the U.S. to employ measures to prevent these sorts of incidents from happening again.