The Levant News–
The United States has flown two B-52 bombers very close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, a move apparently designed to increase tensions with Beijing.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Hill newspaper on Thursday that the bombers made one pass within 12 nautical miles of the islands over the weekend.
The Chinese military radioed the bombers and told them to “get away from our islands.” However, according to the US official, the bombers refused to obey the Chinese order.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Thursday confirmed the incident to The Hill, but declined to say when it happened.
“I know that we conduct B-52 flights in the international airspace in that part of the world all the time,” Cook said.
“And my understanding is there was one B-52 flight — I’m not even sure the date on it — but there was an effort made by Chinese ground controllers to reach out to the aircraft and that aircraft continued its mission unchanged,” he added.
US Defense Department spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban later said the US bombers did not get within 12 miles of the Chinese islands, and described the mission as part of “routine operations.”
The flights came two weeks after the US Navy sent its USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, within 12 nautical miles of the island, in what the Pentagon refers to as a “freedom of navigation” operation.
The White House had approved the movement by the USS Lassen, which sailed around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, a disputed group of hundreds of reefs, islets, atolls and islands in the South China, said a US military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We will fly, sail and operate anywhere in the world that international law allows,” another US military official told CNN.
Pentagon spokesman Urban had earlier said that “the United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.”
China has on different occasions asserted its sovereignty over the sea, with Chinese Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) North Sea Fleet, insisting back in September that the South China Sea belongs to China.
However, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims over the South China Sea.
The US does not recognize China’s sovereignty in the disputed waters and has sent surveillance aircraft and warships to monitor Chinese activities.
Washington accuses Beijing of conducting a massive “land reclamation” program in the disputed waters, whereby it has built up rocks and reefs into artificial islands with facilities for potential military use. However, Beijing accuses Washington of meddling in the regional disputes and deliberately stirring up tensions in the region.
According to an American political pundit, the United States is engaged in a “vainglorious attempt” to project its naval power into the South China Sea, but Beijing will not fall into Washington’s trap.
“While the US acts like an impetuous adolescent, goading China to a fight, China is playing the role of the mature adult in this misadventure, willing to let the transgression go with a simple admonition,” Professor Dennis Etler told Press TV on October 27.
Source: Press TV.