U.S. aircraft moved in Wednesday to survey China’s massive new artificial islands, which have expanded by 1,500 football fields in two years, only to be met with eight warnings to “go away.”
Deployment the P8-A Poseidon aircraft over the islands sends a strong message to Beijing that it can’t simply build sovereignty and gain increased acceptance of its outlandish claims in the South China Sea through the use of artificial islands, CNN reports.
Predictably, the Chinese weren’t happy about the aircraft’s presence, sending a transmission over radio saying, “This is the Chinese navy … This is the Chinese navy … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding.” Despite the U.S. insisting it was traveling in international airspace, the Chinese didn’t give up trying to ward off the P8-A Poseidon from the region. (RELATED: China Loudly Protests US Plan To Send Aircraft And Ships To South China Sea)
Never before has the Pentagon declassified audio from China trying to ward off U.S. military aircraft, which dropped to as low as 15,000 feet during the mission. The focus was three new islands that several months ago were nothing more than reefs. U.S. warships may soon arrive within miles of the islands.
Protests from the U.S. about the futility of an island-building strategy haven’t appeared to dissuade China, leading to escalating tension with surrounding countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and others that also claim title to parts of the South China Sea. While the U.S. has had its attention grabbed by nuclear negotiations in Iran and the conflict in Ukraine, China has expanded the man-made islands by 2,000 acres in only two years and also claims at least 90 percent of the sea.
Washington also maintains a stake in the region because the South China Sea generates $5 trillion dollars a year from trade. Preserving freedom of navigation is a clear priority.
The standoff, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CNN, could “absolutely” lead to war between the U.S. and China.
“I’m scratching my head like everyone else as to what’s the (Chinese) end game here,” Capt. Mike Parker also told CNN. “We have seen increased activity even recently on what appears to be the building of military infrastructure.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to a conference in Jakarta and argued that the Chinese are recklessly endangering investor confidence by trying to “make sovereign land out of sandcastles.” Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Beijing on Sunday didn’t appear to make much headway with intractable Chinese leadership, who maintain that the desire to protect Chinese sovereignty is “as hard as a rock.”
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