Beijing: US warships and planes carried out over 2,000 close spying missions aimed at China this year as the rivalry between the two countries heightened, a PLA researcher has told an annual Chinese military conference, asserting that the high frequency of such close reconnaissance endangers the country’s sovereign security which will “undoubtedly increase the risk of gunfire”.
The targets of these missions included the Chinese controlled islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) as well as the coastal area of the Chinese mainland, said Cao Yanzhong, a researcher with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science.
“The high frequency of such close reconnaissance endangers China’s sovereign security and heightens regional tensions, which will inevitably trigger firm opposition from China and undoubtedly increase the risk of gunfire,” Cao told a panel at the 10th Xiangshan Forum, an annual Chinese military conference.
The relations between the US and China are at an all-time low. The two countries are engaged in a bitter confrontation over various issues, including trade, Beijing’s aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea and human rights in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang region.
“The most urgent task at the moment is that the US immediately ceases its frequent close reconnaissance to reduce the possibility of misfires,” Cao said, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Thursday.
The US has been periodically sending its naval and air patrols through the SCS, challenging China’s claims of sovereignty over the area and also to assert the freedom of navigation.
China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
Beijing is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. It has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.
Early this month, China expressed concern over reports that a US nuclear submarine sustained damage in the SCS and demanded Washington to reveal the details and the location of the incident.
Chinese military analyst Cao said that the US had carried out a series of acts that challenged China’s sovereignty and security and was trying to contain it in areas such as trade, science and technology.
He said that China was forced to take countermeasures, but this would inevitably hamper their ability to cooperate on things such as arms control and regional security.
Cao said that while the risk could be reduced by better communications and rules of safe conduct between the two sides, ultimately the US should make fundamental readjustments to its China policy and stop treating the country as a threat.
China has earlier accused the US of disguising warplanes as civilian aircraft for close-shore reconnaissance missions, something Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin described as a “common trick” that the US Air Force carried out at least 100 times last year, the Post report added.