An Australian military surveillance plane has flown near disputed areas of the South China Sea, it emerged Wednesday, with the crew heard warning China’s navy it was on a freedom of navigation mission.
Tensions in the region have mounted since China transformed reefs in the South China Sea into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move the United States says threatens free passage in an area through which one-third of the world’s oil passes.
In October, Washington infuriated Beijing when the USS Lassen guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one land formation claimed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands chain.
Now a Royal Australian Air Force patrol plane has carried out patrols in air space around the area.
“A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion was conducting a routine maritime patrol in the region as part of Operation Gateway from November 25 to December 4,” a defence department spokesperson told AFP.
“Under Operation Gateway, the Australian Defence Force conducts routine maritime surveillance patrols in the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea as a part of Australia’s enduring contribution to the preservation of regional security and stability in Southeast Asia.”
Full article: Australian military plane flies over disputed South China Sea (Spacewar)