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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 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 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 enhance within the air is clearly regarding… it is not a really forgiving surroundings if one thing goes incorrect if 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 conserving sea lanes open is the “firstly” 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 economic system operating,” the vice admiral stated.

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

The South China Sea holds among the world’s busiest industrial delivery lanes. China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire physique of water, although different nations together with the US don’t acknowledge that declare and it hasn’t held up in a court docket 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 often. It isn’t like daily, one thing’s happening. 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 US and different nations 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.”

“When you do not problem it, the issue is that it will turn out to be the norm … Individuals simply settle for it. After which unexpectedly, folks could make claims like your entire South China Sea is their territorial sea.”

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