BEIJING, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- China accused the United States of a "serious military provocation" for allegedly flying B-52 bombers over the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
China said two U.S. bombers flew in the airspace near the islands on Dec. 10, putting the country's military on high alert. The country's Ministry of National Defense accused the United States of making a show of force to create tensions in the disputed region over the manmade islands, located in one of the busiest maritime trade routes worldwide. The Chinese government filed a formal diplomatic complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The Pentagon said one of two bombers patrolling the area veered off course, possibly due to bad weather.
"For this mission, there was no intention of flying to within 12 nautical miles," said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman. "The Chinese have raised concerns with us about the flight path of a recent mission. We are looking into the matter."
The complaint comes amid rising tensions between China and surrounding areas and allies including the United States over claims to the Spratly Islands. In October, a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of the area. Last month, two American B-52s flew close to the islands, prompting warnings from the Chinese government.