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The Beijing-backed think tank, the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SSCBI), said three planes were used to conduct covert surveillance flights over the disputed waters. A report from the group said the plane took off from bases in Okinawa in Japan and Manila in the Philippines and had carried out 150 patrols in the East China, Yellow and South Seas since March.
American planes fly wherever legal and continue to fly in Asia
He said US military leaders leased the civilian planes from private companies called Tenax Aerospace and Meta Special Aerospace.
The deployment of civilian spy planes would help strengthen the operational capabilities of the US military in the region.
The think tank described the covert surveillance operations as “as a test to see Chinese reactions.”
China accused the United States of leasing civilian planes to carry out spy missions in the South China Sea
Researchers in the group had previously accused the US military of flying military planes in accordance with civil aviation codes to avoid detection.
But they have now suggested that the deployment of private jets to the region could lead to a reduction in tensions and the risk of a major incident in the volatile region.
The report states: “Compared to the aerial reconnaissance capabilities of the US Navy and Air Force, the reconnaissance planes of private defense companies have greater flexibility in dealing with ‘gray area’ issues, reducing the diplomatic pressure caused by direct military confrontation.
“It also signals that the United States will intensify its presence in the Indo-Pacific region through collaboration between the military, the coast guard and the private security sector.”
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Beijing-backed think tank said U.S. stepped up surveillance flights
China’s claims to sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea are contested by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Beijing rejected a 2016 arbitration ruling invalidating most of its land claims in the South China Sea, resulting in an increased US military presence in the region.
Military flights over disputed waters have also intensified in recent months, according to SSCBI.
South china sea
US Army Maj. Randy Ready, US Indo-Pacific Command spokesperson, said, âUS planes fly wherever legal and continue to fly in Asia.
“Although the scope of our operations will vary depending on the current operating environment, the United States has a persistent military presence and regularly operates throughout the Indo-Pacific, including the waters and airspace surrounding the sea. East China and the South China Sea. “
He called the air movement “a continuous demonstration of our commitment to the region and our desire to defend the freedoms enshrined in international law”.
U.S. security analysts said the increase in surveillance flights over seas near China reflected Washington’s desire to deter Chinese expansion and militarization in the region.
Sean King, vice chairman of New York City policy consultancy Park Strategies, said the operations “can be considered to live up to the US State Department’s July policy statement that the specific claims of China regarding the South China Sea are illegal â.
He said Beijing would not take any “real action” against US surveillance planes other than making statements.
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Oh Ei Sun, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Affairs in Singapore, said officials in Washington would consider thefts to be routine.
He said, “What China would consider unusual might not be felt the same way on the American side.”
Mr. Oh said countries in Southeast Asia that challenge China’s maritime claims “welcome” any increase in US military activity.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused the ruling Chinese Communist Party of “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in its treatment of other countries in the region.