China has accused the United States (US) of “serious provocation” following B52 flights near the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.
China has started a rapid land reclamation project and is building military bases on the Islands which are not officially Chinese territory and are being disputed to multiple neighbouring countries.
The military bases on the islands, which lay in the middle of South China Sea, are seen as attempts by Beijing to control passage around the South China Sea and provide a strategic staging post for military operations. Any attempt fly near of around the islands has been met with threats of military action from the Chinese Navy.
The US, along with many other countries has been exercising “freedom of passage” over and around the islands as they lay in international waters. The latest of these were a flight of B52’s, one of which flew within 2 nautical miles of Cuarteron Reef prompting the Chinese Navy to be on “high alert”.
China claimed the US flight “is constitute a serious military provocation and are rendering more complex and even militarising conditions in the South China Sea”
The US has stated the flight was “in accordance with all international laws”.
China has built artificial reefs on the Spratly Islands in order to bolster its claim on the territory although the United Nations (UN) does not recognise these or China’s claim. The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia (all closer to the Spratly Islands than China) all claim sovereignty on the archipelago.
The BBC recently reported on the disputes including what happens when you fly to close to the islands. You can watch the report below.