Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NAS Jax Aircraft Involved in South China Sea Dispute; Chinese Navy Tells Plane on Reconnaissance Flight to 'Leave Immediately'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NAS Jax Aircraft Involved in South China Sea Dispute; Chinese Navy Tells Plane on Reconnaissance Flight to 'Leave Immediately'

Article excerpt

Byline: Clifford Davis

The long-simmering feud between China, its neighbors and the United States over islands in the South China Sea ratcheted up a notch last week.

A P-8A Poseidon from Jacksonville Naval Air Station's VP-45 Pelicans in flight over a disputed island chain was contacted by the Chinese navy and told to leave immediately.

"This is Chinese navy, you are approaching our military alert zone," the voice said in a radio transmission released by the U.S. Navy. "Leave immediately in order to avoid misjudgment."

The Poseidon crew continued its reconnaissance mission.

"I am a United States military aircraft conducting lawful, military activities outside national airspace," a U.S. crewman replied repeatedly. "I am operating with due regard as required under international law."

Recently, China has converted the Spratly Islands, largely uninhabited with no water source, into airstrips. Some have been formed seemingly out of nowhere.

"We're in Fiery Cross reef, which is part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea," an unidentified Navy lieutenant said as he pointed to his monitor in the P-8 during the incident. "Currently what we're looking at is some construction on a landing strip.

"They've built hundreds of meters in the last couple of months."

The disputed islands are located well south of China between the Philippines and Vietnam. All three countries, along with Taiwan and Brunei, claim ownership.

The islands have long been visited by Vietnamese and Chinese fisherman, but Chinese military expansion in the region has added new urgency.

The dispute over the Spratly Islands is just the latest development.

Japan and China have been at odds over the Senkaku Islands further north for years. Their military aircraft and ships routinely play dangerous cat and mouse games as each tries to assert its control.

However, the Spratlys open a new theater for China's expansion and cause more anxiety for its neighbors.

"This is a crisis waiting to happen," said Gordon Arbogast, a professor of military strategy at Jacksonville University and a former executive director at the Defense Communications Agency. "It's teetering to a point where if the Chinese want to push it, we'll have to react to that."

Arbogast said the Obama state department's 'pivot' toward the Asia-Pacific theater a few years back was a good idea in theory, but that those efforts have been hampered by the rise of ISIS and other developments in the Middle East.

"The pivot is pretty well documented that we are trying to reposition forces to reassure allies with regard to China because they're becoming more and more aggressive," Arbogast said. "They thought Iraq was under control, thought ISIS was a JV team and we could really pivot and concentrate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.