The Chinese regime scrambled fighter jets on May 10 to chase a U.S. Navy ship in a region of the south China Sea about 500 miles south of the Chinese mainland.
The United States is continuing its “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, which several different countries claim parts of, and which China claims in its entirety.
The USS William P. Lawrence, a guided missile destroyer, passed within 12-nautical miles of the Fiery Cross Reef, which is in the Spratly Island chain. According to Reuters, the Chinese regime responded by scrambling two fighter jets and three warships, which shadowed the U.S. ship and told it to leave.
China converted the reef into an artificial island in a highly controversial move in 2014, and satellite imagery in Sept. 2015 showed the Chinese regime had started building advanced military facilities on the man-made island, including sophisticated radar.
According to The Diplomat, the Chinese regime had also constructed a runway on the artificial island close to 10,000 feet long. On Jan. 2, it conducted its first landing on the newly-built airstrip.
This isn’t the first time the Chinese regime has scrambled jets to chase foreign ships or aircraft in the contested region. In 2013, soon after China created a largely unrecognized air defense zone in the disputed East China Sea, it began scrambling jets to chase U.S. and Japanese planes passing through the region.
This may, however, be the first time the Chinese regime has scrambled jets to chase foreign ships in a region this far south of the Chinese mainland.
The Chinese regime only recently began deploying jets in the South China Sea. In February, it began deploying jets on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain closer to Vietnam and Hainan.