U.S. and Chinese officials are trading jabs in what threatens to boil over into something much more serious. The U.S. has been running surveillance flights over the South China Sea, which Beijing say threatens peace in the area.
Meanwhile the U.S. has warned China not to challenge those flights, and the Chinese military is attempting to electronically jam the drones that are running some of those flights.
China warns of “accidents”
CNN reports that Hong Lei, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, warned the U.S. that the surveillance flights pose “potential threats to China’s islands and reefs, making it highly possible to lead to misjudgment, which could cause maritime or air accidents.” A news crew that flew onboard a U.S. Navy surveillance flight reported that China’s navy issued eight warnings to the jet during the flight. The Navy has released videos and an audio recording of the incident.
The U.S. has said that its ships and aircraft are following international freedom of navigation rights over the South China Sea. Chinese officials are basically telling U.S. officials to keep their noses out of the dispute in the sea, which involves China and its neighbors. The dispute deals with fishing grounds and undersea resources in the area.
Meanwhile The Washington Free Beacon reports that China’s military has been attempting to electronically jam the drones used by the U.S. to surveil the South China Sea. The website reports that there was at least one incident of jamming a drone flying over the Spratly Islands, although U.S. officials did not confirm that report. China is in the process of constructing a military facility near there on the Fiery Cross Reef.
U.S. returns the warning
Officials with the U.S. Navy warned that they would continue carrying out the flights over the South China Sea. Thus far, they haven’t tested Beijing’s claims on the artificial islands in the sea, but this week the Pentagon said that could be “the next step,” according to a report in the Taipei Times.
Military officials are reportedly considering sending aircraft and warships to an area within 12 nautical miles of the islands, which are a sensitive area for China. If they decide to do that, it will only fuel tensions in the region, however. Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea as Chinese territory.
Chinese charged in the U.S.
The tensions in the South China Sea are spilling over into the U.S., which has arrested a number of Chinese citizens on various charges. According to the Associated Press, Temple University Physics Dept. Chairman Xi Xiaoxing of Philadelphia faced four charges of wire fraud in court on Thursday. Prosecutors accuse him of participating in a program operated by the Chinese government that involves technology innovation before his 2002 sabbatical, during which he worked with a U.S. company on “a thin-film superconducting device containing magnesium diboride,” according to the AP.
Three other Chinese citizens who had gotten advanced degrees from the University of Southern California and three others also faced charges. Prosecutors accused them of stealing wireless technology from two U.S. companies. They face charges of stealing trade secrets and economic espionage.