U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon airplane.
SINGAPORE– The leader of the U.S. Seventh Fleet stated on Tuesday that he’s seen a boost in “unsafe” aerial intercepts by the Chinese military in the South China Sea area.
As just recently as May, a Chinese fighter airplane apparently obstructed a Royal Australian Air Force P-8 maritime security aircraft in the South China Sea area in a way that Australia’s defense department stated was “dangerous” to its airplane and team. The department stated the Chinese airplane fired chaff that was drawn into the Australian aircraft’s engine.
“This reported increase in the air is obviously concerning… it’s not a very forgiving environment if something goes wrong when you’re flying in the air,” Karl Thomas stated.
The Chinese embassy in Singapore did not instantly react to CNBC’s ask for remark.
Thomas stated in a press instruction in Singapore that keeping sea lanes open is the “first and foremost” objective of the U.S. Navy.
“Sea lanes are the lifeblood of our economies … having open sea lanes and having shipping that can operate … is extremely important to keep the economy running,” the vice admiral stated.
About 80% of international trade volume was brought by sea in 2021, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
The South China Sea holds a few of the world’s busiest business shipping lanes. China declares sovereignty over nearly the entire body of water, though other nations consisting of the United States do not acknowledge that claim and it hasn’t held up in a court of worldwide arbitration.
Dangerous intercepts stay ‘irregular’
Thomas took care to keep in mind that harmful aerial intercepts stay unusual.
“We’re not seeing it happen very frequently. It’s not like every day, something’s going on. It’s an infrequent action,” he stated. “And then you start asking yourself — is it because it’s an unprofessional pilot? Or is it something that’s more broad than that?”
The leader safeguarded so-called “freedom of navigation” operations by the United States and other nations as part of a rules-based order in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He kept that China’s declares over the South China Sea require to be “challenged.”
“If you don’t challenge it, the problem is that it’ll become the norm … People just accept it. And then all of a sudden, people can make claims like the entire South China Sea is their territorial sea.”