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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 stated on Tuesday that he is seen a rise in “unsafe” aerial intercepts by the Chinese language navy within the South China Sea area.

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

“This reported improve within the air is clearly regarding… it isn’t a really forgiving surroundings if one thing goes flawed while you’re flying within the air,” Karl Thomas stated.

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

Thomas stated in a press briefing in Singapore that maintaining sea lanes open is the “in the beginning” mission of the U.S. Navy.

“Sea lanes are the lifeblood of our economies … having open sea lanes and having transport that may function … is extraordinarily necessary to maintain the economic system operating,” the vice admiral stated.

About 80% of worldwide commerce quantity was carried by sea in 2021, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Commerce and Improvement.

The South China Sea holds a number of the world’s busiest industrial transport lanes. China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire physique of water, although different international locations together with the USA 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 continuously. It is not like every single day, one thing’s occurring. It is an rare motion,” he stated. “And you then 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 USA 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 have to be “challenged.”

“In case you do not problem it, the issue is that it will grow to be the norm … Folks simply settle for it. After which unexpectedly, folks could make claims like the whole South China Sea is their territorial sea.”

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