A U.S. Navy-operated P8-A Poseidon surveillance plane was “lased” by a Chinese military destroyer while flying over international waters in the Pacific Ocean, the military said in a statement on Friday.
The Poseidon was operating in “international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations” about 400 miles west of Guam, a U.S. territory, according to the military.
It accused the Chinese regime of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions by using a laser on the aircraft.
“These acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea,” said the U.S. Navy, which added that the usage of lasers can harm personnel or equipment.
“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems,” according to the Navy.
People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer lased a #USNavy P-8A Poseidon aircraft in an unsafe, unprofessional manner. The incident took place Feb. 17 in the airspace above international waters 380 miles west of Guam. #FreeandOpenIndoPacific
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) February 28, 2020
The Navy further noted that the Chinese destroyer violated an agreement between the Department of Defense and China’s ministry of defense on how maritime encounters should be handled.
Military-grade laser beams, which are sometimes called “dazzlers,” send out a powerful beam of light that can travel long ranges and can illuminate aircraft cockpits, which may blind pilots. It’s not clear if the pilots of the PA-8 suffered temporarily blindness.
The Pentagon has repeatedly stated in recent days that the Chinese Communist Party represents an increasingly serious threat to security in East Asia, saying that China has invested a heavy amount in its military to dominate the region.
“Over time, we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea, and rapidly modernize their armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor,” said Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier in February. “And often at the expense of others.”
In 2018, the United States accused Chinese forces stationed in the East African nation of Djibouti of using a laser on C-130J aircraft, injuring American pilots.
“This activity poses a true threat to our airmen,” a Pentagon spokesperson said at the time. “It’s a serious matter, so we’re taking it very seriously.”