CHINA / MILITARY
US close-in reconnaissance on China hits new record amid PLA live-fire exercises
Published: Mar 23, 2021 12:08 AM
A frigate attached to a naval frigate flotilla under the PLA Northern Theater Command fires its main gun at mock sea targets during a 3-day round-the-clock training exercise in late February. The troops completed training items including gun fire, sea blockade, joint search and rescue, air defense and anti-missile, improving the capability of using weapons under complex situations.(Photo: eng.chinamil.com.cn)

A frigate attached to a naval frigate flotilla under the PLA Northern Theater Command fires its main gun at mock sea targets during a 3-day round-the-clock training exercise in late February. The troops completed training items including gun fire, sea blockade, joint search and rescue, air defense and anti-missile, improving the capability of using weapons under complex situations.(Photo: eng.chinamil.com.cn)


 
The US on Monday sent a spy plane to conduct a close-in reconnaissance on China’s southern coastal regions setting a new record as the closest approach to China’s coastlines coinciding with live-fire exercises held by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the region.

An RC-135U Combat Sent electronic reconnaissance aircraft from the US Air Force entered the South China Sea on Monday through the Bashi Channel to conduct reconnaissance operations on China’s southern coastal regions, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a think tank based in Beijing, revealed the same day.

During its flight, the US aircraft reached a location where it was only 25.33 nautical miles away from China’s coastlines, setting a new record in the publicly available information, the think tank said.

Usually, close-in reconnaissance operations by US aircrafts on China stay at a distance of about 50 to 70 nautical miles, and the 25.33 nautical miles reached this time are unexpected, because this means the aircraft was already at the edge of the contiguous zone, a band of water extending farther from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline, SCSPI said.

The event showed that the intensity of US military reconnaissance on China has again increased and will definitely result in a potentially higher military risk, SCSPI noted.

Coinciding with the US unprecedented close-in reconnaissance, the PLA was conducting gun fire exercises in the South China Sea near Nan'ao Island, close to Shantou, South China’s Guangdong Province, from Sunday to Monday, according to a navigation restriction notice released by China’s Maritime Safety Administration last week.

A flight path map released by SCSPI shows that the US reconnaissance aircraft was close to the PLA exercise location, according to coordinates released with the notice.

Chinese military experts previously told the Global Times that US close-in reconnaissance operations could gather intelligence, including the deployment of equipment and personnel, as well as electromagnetic signals.

Close-in reconnaissance flights over live-fire exercise sites pose a great risk of misfiring, experts warned.

The US Navy also sent a P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft and an EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft to the South China Sea on Monday, according to SCSPI.

According to a report by SCSPI released earlier this month, the US military repeatedly deployed strategic weapon platforms, including aircraft carrier strike groups, to the South China Sea in 2020 in unprecedented moves that aimed to deter China.

The report added that the US will likely continue to rally regional allies and partners to interfere in regional affairs and enhance its frontier military presence, as well as intensify its activity in the region in an effort to achieve the maritime containment of China.

Global Times
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