The Chinese navy warned a US surveillance aircraft flying over disputed South China Sea near Beijing’s artificial islands to leave the area on Wednesday, CNN reported.
According to the report, the navy operator warned US pilot eight times to turn away and leave the area, despite the pilot's claim to be flying through international airspace.
The CNN team, who were on the P8-A Poseidon surveillance plane during the latest incident, reported that the aircraft flew at 4,500 metres at its lowest point. The report also revealed Chinese construction in the area provided by the US military.
Chinese officials did not confirm or deny the report, adding "China has the right to engage in monitoring in the relevant airspace and waters to protect the country's sovereignty and prevent accidents at sea," Reuters reported.
The high-stakes rivalry between China and the United States seems to have turned into a confrontation after Washington decided to send surveillance aircrafts to patrol the airspace above the South China Sea.
China’s efforts to redefine its territorial waters were increased last year when Beijing commenced the building of seven artificial islands near the Spratly islands where coastal states in the South China Sea have severely objected to Chinese maritime expansion.
China has long been wrestling with its maritime neighbours Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei over sovereignty over the South China Sea.
The parties’ overlapping claims on maritime transportation, navigation, exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, undersea bed gas and oil reserves have increased tensions and China started to build artificial islands in the sea last year.
The US moves to patrol South China Sea air space came as Beijing was preparing to declare an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area. The Chinese navy has already warned Philippine military planes flying over the area to leave.
US officials claim that Chinese military complexes are now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly island and include a 3,000-metre runway and airborne early warning radars which will be operational by the year end.
CNN reported that civilian aircrafts are also affected by the standoff, quoting a Delta flight in the area warned by the Chinese navy just before identifying himself as commercial pilot.