On Wednesday, America’s most advanced surveillance, the P8-A Poseidon, flew over a course of man-made, militarized islands 600 miles away from China’s coastline.
As they were flying over the islands, the aircraft received eight warnings from the Chinese navy. According to CNN, a voice came through the radio asking the aircraft to go away, “This is the Chinese navy … This is the Chinese navy … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding,”.
CNN was given the opportunity to join the surveillance flight, which the Pentagon allowed in hopes to raise awareness about the danger of the islands and the U.S. response.
Even though the flight flew at 15,000 feet in the air, which is at its lowest point, the U.S. is contemplating flying even closer over the islands and sailing U.S. ships within just a few miles of them.
The surveillance flight’s mission was to specifically monitor Chinese activities on the three islands that just a few months ago were reefs peeking out of the water. Now, the islands are enormous construction projects, and the U.S. fears they may becoming fully operational military installations.
The South China Sea is prone to conflict regarding territorial issues. With its abundant reserves of natural resources and fruitful waters, China believes they have jurisdiction over the area, even though it is far from the mainland.
Per CNN, “In a sign of just how valuable China views these islands to be, the new islands are already well protected.”
China have the developed the islands to 2,000 acres so far. The Fiery Cross Reef even has military camps, a large lookout tower, and a runway that is long enough to handle any aircraft.
Former Cia Deputy Director Michael Morell explained that this confrontation demonstrates that there is “absolutely” a chance that China and the U.S. could go to war at any time. Although, he acknowledged that it was not in interest of either countries.
“China is a rising power. We’re a status quo power. We’re the big dog on the block … They want more influence. Are we going to move a little bit? Are they going to push? How is that dance going to work out? This is a significant issue for the next President of the United States.” Morell said
Lt. Cmdr Matt Newman said to CNN, “There’s obviously a lot of surface traffic down there: Chinese warships, Chinese coast guard ships. They have air search radars, so there’s a pretty good bet they’re tracking us.”
American pilots responded peacefully to the Chinese Navy that they were flying through international airspace, but they ordered the pilots of the P8 out of the airspace eight times in just one mission.
Flying over the reef, you can see numerous dredgers pulling up sand from the ocean and building the new superficial land.
According to CNN, U.S. commanders said that “the more China builds, the more frequently and aggressively the Chinese navy [send] away U.S. military aircraft.”