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China: US Conducted 'Serious Military Provocation'

by VOA News December 19, 2015

China has accused the United States of conducting a 'serious military provocation' by flying B-52 planes over Chinese man-made islands earlier this month in the South China Sea.

China's Defense Ministry said in a statement Saturday it had warned the aircraft to leave. China said the U.S. action is leading to 'militarizing conditions' between the two nations.

China has claimed sovereignty to all its man-made islands in the South China Sea.

U.S. Navy Commander Bill Urban said the Navy regularly conducts training missions in the region.

'Freedom of navigation'

Urban said the flight was not a 'freedom of navigation' operation, suggesting the flight could have strayed off course.

Freedom of navigation operations are missions conducted to challenge what the U.S. believes are excessive territorial claims made by other countries.

China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has stepped up a program of land reclamation and construction in the disputed islands and reefs, which has sparked concern in the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region.

During his visit to the White House this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged not to militarize the artificial islands.

"Relevant construction activities that China is undertaking in the islands of South Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) do not target or impact any country, and China does not intend to pursue militarization," Xi said.

The Obama administration assured Congress it would work hard to stop militarization of the disputed islands.

'Concerned' about actions

"The majority of the region is concerned about the actions taking place in the South China Sea. We are looking to ensure that there is a regional consensus to ensure that there is no further militarization of these outposts. That is our goal," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs said during the hearing.

The United States has called for a halt to China's artificial island building, and recently has tried to show its determination by sending the military ship USS Lassen into the 22-kilometer zone of some disputed reefs.

U.S. military aircraft also have made routine flights in international air space in the disputed area.

China has repeatedly said, in President Xi's words, it is "committed to respecting and upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight that countries enjoy according to international law."

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