B-52 Mistakenly Flew Close to Disputed Island Claimed By China


The Defence Ministry yesterday condemned the United States for committing a "serious military provocation" by flying strategic bombers over a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon said Friday that the two bombers flew closer than planned to Cuateron Reef in the Spratly Islands and the incident is being investigated. However, Washington maintains that China's seven newly created islands do not enjoy traditional rights including a 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit. "The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent mission", he said.

"We need to remind ourselves that [the] U.S. Navy... has been conducting freedom of navigation operations since Jimmy Carter was in office", said Craig Allen, a professor of marine and environmental affairs at the University of Washington School of Law. "We demand the United States to take necessary actions to prevent such events from happening, and avoid damages to the military-to-military relations between the two countries", the ministry said.

Six US House of Representatives members expressed support for Taiwan's South China Sea initiatives, including a peace proposal and efforts to make Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) a hub for humanitarian assistance and scientific research.

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.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands, in a still image from video taken by a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft in May.

Beijing's claims in the sea conflict with those of its regional neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.

He added that the U.S., which has yet to confirm how many bombers were involved in the mission, is now looking into the matter.

This week, Australia said one of its military surveillance planes had flown near disputed areas of the South China Sea. China alleged that the USA committed a "serious military provocation" with its actions. At the ASEAN summit recently in Kuala Lumpur, Japan began lobbying for a new code of conduct to neutralise China's maritime claims. For its part, the USA asserts that it does not recognise China's claims over the South China Sea.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Berlin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi drew a contrast between the situation in the South China Sea region and the chaos and turmoil in other parts of the world.