Tensions Escalate Over South China Sea as Chinese Jet Intercepts U.S. Spy Plane


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US surveillance near China continues to cause tension between the two countries. In May of this year, China openly expressed the disapproval of US surveillance after two Chinese fighter jets blocked a US military aircraft looking over the South China Sea. Pentagon released a statement concerning “routine” U.S. patrol over the South China Sea, which Beijing demands an end to. This last unsafe intercept took place a week after a U.S. Navy ship sailed near a contested reef and China was forced to ready their fighter jets to ensure Chinese security.

Washington claims that Beijing is attempting to monopolize control of the South China Sea through military tactics because of the importance that area holds for ship-borne trading. The U.S. justifies their surveillance for this reason.

Hong Kei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry stated that Pentagon’s claims are false, and that China is only engaging in safety precautions. He also went on to further explain how the constant military surveillance the U.S. carries out endangers China’s security, especially as the reconnaissance the U.S. engages in occurs in locations that include Hainan and the Guangdong coast, both strategic locations for China. The submarine bases in Hainan house some of China’s nuclear submarines, and the Guangdong coast houses the DF-21D anti-ship weapon among more of China’s most advanced missiles.

Tension has been escalating for some time. Early in 2001, a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. surveillance plane, leading to a collision that resulted in the death of the Chinese pilot. The U.S. spy jet was forced to land in Hainan, and the 24 American crew members were held for 11 days until the U.S. apologized for the death of the Chinese pilot. Just over two years ago, the Chinese had also engaged in another interception just days before U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to Asia. Earlier this month, Pentagon discussed the way in which Russia had intercepted a U.S. Air Force aircraft in a dangerous and unethical manner.

In 2015, the Coad for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) was announced by the U.S. and China in order to establish guidelines for civil air-to-air encounters. Recent events show the limitations of the agreement. The U.S. intends to exercise freedom in the South China Sea, and China intends on prioritizing their security over any agreement.


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