US ships and planes conducted 2,000 spying missions aimed at China this year, says military analyst

·3-min read

United States warships and planes carried out over 2,000 close spying operations aimed at China this year, according to a military analyst.

The targets of these missions include Chinese controlled islands and reefs in the South China Sea, as well as the coastal area of the Chinese mainland, according to Cao Yanzhong, a researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Science.

“The high frequency of such close reconnaissance endangers China’s sovereign security and heightens regional tensions, which will inevitably trigger firm opposition from China and undoubtedly increase the risk of gunfire,” Cao told a panel at the 10th Xiangshan forum, an annual Chinese military conference that was held via video link this week.

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“The most urgent task at the moment is that the US immediately ceases its frequent close reconnaissance to reduce the possibility of misfires,” he said.

Cao said the US had carried out a series of acts that challenged China’s sovereignty and security and was trying to contain it in areas such as trade, science and technology.

He argued that China was forced to take countermeasures, but this would inevitably hamper their ability to cooperate on things such as arms control and regional security.

Cao said that while the risk could be reduced by better communications and rules of safe conduct between the two sides, ultimately the US should make fundamental readjustments to its China policy and stop treating the country as a threat.

US strike group, Japanese warship in joint South China Sea drills

As tensions between the two sides grow, China has complained about the increase in US intelligence operations carried out by planes and ships.

Apart from the much-publicised “freedom of navigation operations” by US naval vessels and aircraft that aim to challenge China’s claims to disputed land features in the South China Sea, reconnaissance planes, ships and submarines have also been carrying out more operations to monitor Chinese military air and naval bases on the islands and near the coast.

China has also accused the US of disguising warplanes as civilian aircraft for close-shore reconnaissance missions, something foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin described as a “common trick” that the US Air Force carried out at least 100 times last year.

In August last year the Chinese defence ministry protested that a US surveillance plane had entered a no-fly zone in the Yellow Sea during a PLA exercise, something Beijing described as a “serious violation” of the codes of safe behaviour.

This month Beijing demanded an explanation after the USS Connecticut, a nuclear-powered submarine, was damaged in a collision with an unknown object in the South China Sea.

The US did not release further details of the incident, which injured 11 submariners, and China has expressed concern about a possible nuclear leak.

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