Filephoto of a US maritime patrol aircraft P-8A
Whatexactly is China up to?
A Chinesenaval vessel on April 19 ordered a Fokker plane of the Philippine Air Forcethat was conducting maritime patrols to stay away from Subi (Zamora) Reef,another area in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where theyhave started reclamation activities.
Theincident happened at a time when hundreds of US troops were in Palawan for thepre-Balikatan activities. The annual war games between the two militariesformally opened on April 20.
TheFilipino officers were talking about the incident in Subi Reef when theirAmerican counterparts revealed that they had a similar experience while flyingover a Chinese-occupied area.
"Thathappened to us, too," a Philippine military officer quoted an Americanparticipant as saying, in the Balikatan 2015 war games in April.
TwoFilipino officers said they were told that it was the P-8 maritime patrolaircraft that was involved.
The radiomessage from the Chinese naval vessel was the same: "Foreign airplane youare approaching my military security area. Please go away quickly in order toavoid misjudgment. Foreign airplane you are approaching my area. Please go awayquickly to avoid wrong judgment."
TheFilipino officer said the American plane replied that it is flying oninternational air space.
As of May7, the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) has recorded at least 6 incidentsof air patrol harassment in the West Philippine Sea.
Airdefense zone over West PH Sea?
Incidentsbetween China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea were previouslylimited to sea vessels. This is the first time that planes are also beingchallenged, prompting concerns that China might be planning to declare an AirDefense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the area.
"Itoay cause for concern sapagka't parang pina-practice ng China na mayroon nangADIZ although wala pang formal declaration," Defense Secretary VoltaireGazmin recently told reporters. (This is cause for concern because it's likeChina is practicing for an ADIZ although it has made no formal declaration.)
"Ito aycause for concern sapagka't parang pina-practice ng China na mayroon nang ADIZalthough wala pang formal declaration,"
China'sattempt to impose an air defense zone near Japan and South Korea raisedtensions last year. (READ: Japan, South Korea defy Chinese air zone)
Therehave been a number of recorded air and sea incidents between the US and Chinain the South China Sea.
InDecember 2013, a Chinese vessel cut across the bow of an American cruiser – themissile-carrying cruiser Cowpens – sailing in the South China Sea. It was theCowpens that maneuvered to avoid a collision with the Chinese vessel. (READ:The Diplomat: How the US lost the South China Sea standoff)
In August2014, the US protested a Chinese fighter jet's mid-air intercept of a USmilitary patrol plane. The Chinese aircraft supposedly came up to 10 metersnear the US aircraft. (READ: BBC: US accuses China of reckless mid-airintercept)