7 March, 2020
Beijing has refuted an accusation by the US Navy that a Chinese warship fired a “military-grade” laser at its P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft somewhere over the South China Sea.
The claims made by the US Navy simply “did not accord with reality,” China’s Defense Ministry said on its WeChat account, responding to the accusations made by the American military last week. The Chinese forces were conducting a routine drill in the area, it added.
The US Pacific Fleet said that its P-8A Poseidon “was lased” on February 17 as it was flying over “international waters” some 380 miles west of Guam. It went on to state that the laser “was not visible to the naked eye” but was captured by the plane’s sensors and could “potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”
The US Navy also turned to Instagram to warn China that “you do not want to play laser tag with us,” while accusing it of violating various maritime agreements. Beijing responded by saying it was the US plane that acted “unfriendly in intention” and unprofessionally “by operation,”eventually threatening both sides.
China also said that P-8A was in fact engaged in “long-period circling reconnaissance at low-altitude,” and outright ignored “repeated warnings” from the Chinese military.
The US has repeatedly sent its warships and aircraft to the South China Sea, citing the principle of ‘freedom of navigation,’ much to China’s dismay. The two nations are locked in a feud over the area since Beijing claims sovereignty over the waterway – something that Washington opposes.