The Chinese navy warned a US surveillance plane flying over artificial islands that Beijing is creating in the disputed South China Sea to leave the area eight times, according to CNN, which was on board the flight on Wednesday.
At one stage, after the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: “This is the Chinese navy … You go!”
The P8-A Poseidon, the US military’s most advanced surveillance aircraft, flew at 4,500 metres at its lowest point, CNN said.
The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggests Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands.
Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a US official said last week that the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.
Footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon and aired by CNN showed a hive of construction and dredging activity on the new islands the plane flew over, as well as Chinese navy ships nearby. scmp.com