South China Sea on BRINK: Beijing warns ‘US spy planes posing as airliners serious threat’

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During a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing this week, Wang Wenbin said “it is the old trick of the US military to use a transponder code to impersonate civil aircraft of other countries.” The Ministry spokesman was responding to a question from a journalist who asked: “A US reconnaissance aircraft used a transponder code to electronically impersonate a Malaysian airliner while spying on China’s Hainan Island and Xisha Islands. Do you have any comment?”

He added: “We urge the US side to immediately stop such dangerous, provocative behaviours to avoid accidents in the air and at sea.

“China will continue to work with regional countries to firmly safeguard the freedoms and safety of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea as well as the peace and stability in the region.”

Mr Wenbin claimed that according to incomplete data, US reconnaissance aircraft have electronically impersonated civil aircraft of other countries in the South China Sea more than 100 times.

He added: “This above-mentioned practice is egregious, which has severely violated international aviation rules, disrupted the aviation order and safety in relevant airspace, and threatened the security of China and countries in the region.


“China firmly opposes that.”

At the same time, the Beijing-based think tank South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) recorded instances of the US cloaking its spy planes as airliners.

According to the Think-Tank, between September 8th and 10th, US spy planes disguised as Malaysian aircraft flew over the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the Yellow Sea near China’s coast.

The report said: “This undoubtedly added up to great risk and uncertainty to international flight safety, which could lead to misjudgment (by ground air defence systems) and probably bring danger to civilian aircraft especially those being impersonated.”

The claims come after Taiwan’s air force scrambled jets for a second consecutive day on Saturday as multiple Chinese aircraft approached the island and crossed the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, with the island’s government urging Beijing to “pull back from the edge.”

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said 19 Chinese aircraft were involved, one more than in the previous day, with some crossing the Taiwan Strait midline and others flying into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone off its southwest coast.

Meanwhile, the US and China are at loggerheads over issues from technology and human rights to Chinese military activities in the disputed South China Sea, with each accusing the other of deliberately provocative behaviour.

In one of the latest US moves against China ahead of November’s presidential election, Washington blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted individuals over construction and military actions in the busy South China Sea waterway.

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A US Navy warship also carried out a routine operation near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, something frequently criticised by Beijing as threatening its sovereignty.

Malaysia or the US has yet to confirm or deny the allegations by Beijing.

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