The CNN station crew was invited to board the American P-8A reconnaissance aircraft, performing a patrol flight in international space over the South China Sea. The plane, which took off from a US air base in Okinawa, Japan, was intercepted by the Chinese Air Force. Journalists managed to register a close encounter with the fighter.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol and reconnaissance aircraft was about seven kilometers above the South China Sea when the cockpit radio chimed in.
– American plane. This is the air force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. You are approaching Chinese airspace. Keep a safe distance or you will be intercepted, a crackling voice announced from the speakers.
The message was also listened to by the CNN crew present on board.
A few minutes later, in the windows to their left, journalists spotted a Chinese J-11 fighter armed with air-to-air missiles. He was close enough that the pilots of the Chinese jet could be seen turning their heads to look at them. Both machines are only 150-170 meters apart.
– This is a U.S. Navy P-8A. You are next to my left wing, I’m going to continue west. I am asking you to do the same,’ Lieutenant Nikki Slaughter, a US plane pilot, said over the radio to the crew of the Chinese fighter.
Her appeal went unanswered. The Chinese plane escorted the American plane for another 15 minutes, then turned back.
For the CNN crew on board the jet, it is tangible evidence of tensions between China and USA. The US Navy officer on board, however, had a different opinion. “I’d say it’s just an ordinary Friday afternoon at the South China Sea,” he said.
The dispute over the waters of the South China Sea
China is gradually but steadily expanding its sphere of influence in the South China Sea. They treat the water body as their property. It is a sea through which the most important transport routes in the world run, and under the surface of which energy resources are to be found in huge quantities.
The Chinese authorities claim 90 percent of this strategically located and resource-rich body of water. Their territorial claims also apply to areas that, in the light of applicable international law, belong to neighboring states – Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. It also makes its own claim to the South China Sea Taiwan.
To stop China’s expansion, the US Navy conducts patrol flights over allied waters and international waters. CNN reporter Ivan Watson and his crew were invited to one of them.
– It is quite unusual to be able to see a Chinese warplane in action so close, from just a few dozen, several hundred meters from our plane – the journalist reported the incident.
Main photo source: CNN