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U.S. Navy is seeing extra ‘unsafe’ aerial intercepts by China, says Seventh Fleet commander

U.S. Navy P-Eight Poseidon plane.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Pictures

SINGAPORE — The commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet mentioned on Tuesday that he is seen a rise in “unsafe” aerial intercepts by the Chinese language navy within the South China Sea area.

As lately as Might, a Chinese language fighter plane allegedly intercepted a Royal Australian Air Power P-Eight maritime surveillance aircraft within the South China Sea area in a way that Australia’s protection division mentioned was “harmful” to its plane and crew. The division mentioned the Chinese language plane fired chaff that was sucked into the Australian aircraft’s engine.

“This reported enhance within the air is clearly regarding… it is not a really forgiving atmosphere if one thing goes improper whenever you’re flying within the air,” Karl Thomas mentioned.

The Chinese language embassy in Singapore didn’t instantly reply to CNBC’s request for remark.

Thomas mentioned in a press briefing in Singapore that retaining sea lanes open is the “before everything” mission of the U.S. Navy.

“Sea lanes are the lifeblood of our economies … having open sea lanes and having delivery that may function … is extraordinarily necessary to maintain the financial system working,” the vice admiral mentioned.

About 80% of world commerce quantity was carried by sea in 2021, in keeping with the United Nations Convention on Commerce and Growth.

The South China Sea holds among the world’s busiest business delivery lanes. China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire physique of water, although different international locations together with the US don’t acknowledge that declare and it hasn’t held up in a courtroom of worldwide arbitration.

Harmful intercepts stay ‘rare’

Thomas was cautious to notice that harmful aerial intercepts stay uncommon.

“We’re not seeing it occur very regularly. It isn’t like on daily basis, one thing’s occurring. It is an rare motion,” he mentioned. “And then you definitely begin asking your self — is it as a result of it is an unprofessional pilot? Or is it one thing that is extra broad than that?”

The commander defended so-called “freedom of navigation” operations by the US and different international locations as a part of a rules-based order in accordance with the United Nations Conference on the Regulation of the Sea.

He maintained that China’s claims over the South China Sea must be “challenged.”

“When you do not problem it, the issue is that it will change into the norm … Folks simply settle for it. After which rapidly, individuals could make claims like your entire South China Sea is their territorial sea.”

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