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China warns foreign ships to steer clear of islands or ‘you will pay’



US Navy


  • China is increasingly issuing stern warnings to foreign
    ships and planes operating near contested territories in the
    South China Sea.
  • Varying from past practice, the warnings are now coming
    from China’s artificial islands, where China has taken steps to
    fortify its position through the deployment of jamming
    technology, missiles, and other defense systems.
  • The U.S. Navy says it is unfazed by Chinese activities
    and will operate wherever international law allows.

The U.S. Navy and allies have noticed an increase in Chinese
radio queries to foreign ships and planes operating in the South
China Sea, some less than friendly and others downright

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the disputed Spratly
Islands warned earlier this year when a Philippine military
aircraft flew to close to a Chinese outpost, according
to the Associated Press, citing a Philippine government report.
“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again, leave
immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the
Chinese military threatened when the plane refused to leave the

In the latter half of last year, Philippine military
aircraft operating near contested territories, specifically those
held by the Chinese, received at least 46 radio warnings. While
these warnings have traditionally been delivered by Chinese coast
guard units, the messages are now being broadcast by personnel
stationed at military outposts in the South China Sea.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio
queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities
in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a U.S. 7th Fleet
spokesperson, told the AP. “These communications do not affect
our operations.” The Philippine military also tends to carry on
with its activities as planned.

Although China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea were, to
a certain extent, discredited by an international arbitration
tribunal two years ago, China has continued to strengthen its
position in the flashpoint region.

In recent months, China has
jamming technology, surface-to-air missiles,
anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even heavy bombers to the South
China Sea, leading Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to
China of “intimidation and coercion” in the
tense waterway. Beijing, however, argues that it has a right to
defend its sovereign territory, especially considering the
increased frequency at which the U.S. Navy conducts
freedom-of-navigation operations in the area.

Despite Chinese warnings and objections, the U.S. military
has repeatedly made it clear that America will maintain an active
military presence in the South China Sea regardless of China’s
actions. “International law allows us to operate here, allows us
to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and
that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,”
Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins
in February.

The U.S. military is also confident in its ability to deal
with China’s military outposts in the region should the situation
escalate. “The United States military’s had a lot of experience
in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” Lt. Gen.
Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, told
reporters in May. “It’s just a fact.”

China’s activities in the South China Sea led the U.S. to
disinvite the People’s Liberation Army Navy from participating in
this year’s iteration of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific
maritime exercises, and the Philippines has reportedly raised the
issue with Beijing on multiple occasions.

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