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China warns U.S. plane over South China Sea

By Ed Adamczyk
China warns U.S. plane over South China Sea
One of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (Flickr)

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The Chinese Navy issued warnings to a U.S. surveillance plane in airspace around disputed South China Sea islands Thursday.

The plane, a P-8A Poseidon, was traveling over the Spratly Islands, a group which includes man-made islands built by China to enhance its territorial claim to most of the South China Sea, when warning were delivered eight times by radio, in English, to the pilot.

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"Foreign military aircraft. This is Chinese navy. You are approaching our military alert zone. Leave immediately," it said, later adding, "Go, go." The pilot responded by saying the plane was over international airspace.

Aboard was a crew from CNN, which reported the plane passed as low as 4,500 meters (14,763 feet) above the islands, and as close to the Chinese mainland as 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the incident but added China's "indisputable sovereignty" over the area is to be respected.

The flight was in accord with recent comments from U.S. Department of Defense officials, who indicated they would send military ships and aircraft to the area to reinforce a message Washington does not agree with Beijing on China's claims to the islands.

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The islands have also been claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia. A number of East Asian countries have recently strengthened military ties with the United States as a result of China's aggressive expansion of its influence in the region.

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