On Friday, Chinese forces deployed in the South China Sea, a contested area filled with Chinese strongholds, attempted to order a US Navy reconnaissance plane to “leave immediately.” They sent six warnings, but the Navy pilot decided to finish the mission and remain on course, refusing to back down to the Chinese.
The US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft was flying past the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, according to a report by Business Insider.
With CNN reporters on board, the plane sailed above various Chinese strongholds located on Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef, allowing the passengers to spot “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.”
While flying over one outpost, sensors on the plane detected 86 ships, including multiple Chinese Coast Guard vessels.
China has been known to use the Coast Guard watercraft to strong-arm countries who also claim rights to the South China Sea.
The US Navy aircraft received a series of warnings from the Chinese, who assert that the area is Chinese territory – a point that, two years ago, an international arbitration tribunal ruled against.
Chinese military personnel ordered the reconnaissance plan to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”
With each warning, the US Navy pilot provided the same response, saying, “I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state.”
“In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law,” the pilot continued, “I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”
This isn’t the first incident of China issuing warnings of that nature. The Philippine government reported a similar encounter earlier this year.
“Leave immediately,” said a member of the Chinese forces. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences.”
The US Navy has also reported an uptick in the number of “radio queries.”
“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” said Cmdr. Clay Doss, a US 7th Fleet representative. “These communications do not affect our operations.