The US military has carried out its threat to fly over disputed islands in the South China Sea, defying multiple warnings by China’s navy for the surveillance aircraft to leave the area.
A Chinese navy dispatcher reportedly made eight demands Wednesday that the US Air Force P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft leave the airspace over the artificial islands Beijing is building in the South China Sea, CNN reported.
The aircraft passed over the Fiery Cross Reef, where China is reportedly building an airfield and other installations.
Observers warn that the US move could escalate tensions in the region.
Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the South China Sea to extend its zone of influence in the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Saturday about the pace and scope of Beijing’s construction projects in the disputed waterway.
“I think we agree that the region needs smart diplomacy in order to conclude the ASEAN-China code of conduct and not outposts and military strips,” he said at a news conference with Wang.