US: B-52 bombers did not intend to fly over China island
Iran Press TV
Sun Dec 20, 2015 5:18AM
The Pentagon has said its B-52 bombers might have strayed off course when they flew over a Chinese man-made island, after Beijing accused Washington of committing "a serious military provocation" in the South China Sea.
Chinese military personnel were put on 'high alert' during the incident on December 10, when the US flew two B-52 bombers near one of the disputed Chinese-controlled Spratly Islands in the strategic waters.
The Chinese Defense Ministry on Saturday said the US is deliberately raising tensions in the region and demanded Washington take immediate steps to avoid similar incidents in the future, and prevent damage to relations between the two countries' militaries.
The Pentagon said it was looking into the complaint.
The United States claims that its patrol operations in the South China Sea are part of the freedom of navigation operations meant to "protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace."
However, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said the Dec.10 incident was not a 'freedom of navigation' operation and that there was 'no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature,' the Associated Press reports.
'The United States routinely conducts B-52 training missions throughout the region, including over the South China Sea,' Wright said in an email to AP. 'These missions are designed to maintain readiness and demonstrate our commitment to fly, sail and operate anywhere allowed under international law.'
The US accuses Beijing of undergoing what it calls a massive land reclamation program in the South China Sea by turning reefs into artificial islands in the disputed areas.
On October 27, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of one of the man-made islands in the South China Sea, drawing strong protest from Beijing.
After the incident, China summoned the US ambassador to Beijing, Max Baucus.
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