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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 Photos

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 army within the South China Sea area.

As not too long ago 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 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 surroundings if one thing goes flawed if 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 protecting sea lanes open is the “initially” 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 vital to maintain the financial system operating,” the vice admiral mentioned.

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

The South China Sea holds a few of the world’s busiest business delivery 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 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 ceaselessly. It isn’t like day-after-day, one thing’s occurring. It is an rare motion,” he mentioned. “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 Legislation of the Sea.

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

“For those who do not problem it, the issue is that it will develop into the norm … Folks simply settle for it. After which impulsively, folks could make claims like your entire South China Sea is their territorial sea.”

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