A Chinese fighter plane has been spotted on a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea, the first such sighting in a year and the first since U.S. President Trump took office, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the J-11 fighter was visible in a satellite image taken on March 29 of Woody Island in the Paracel island chain.
News of the sighting came as Trump was in Florida for meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday at which he is expected to air U.S. concerns about China’s pursuit of territory and militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.
“This isn’t a first, but it’s the first time in a year,” AMTI director Greg Poling said of the jet sighting.
Referring to the single fighter plane visible in the image, he said: “There are likely more in the hangars nearby.”
The United States has said in the past that rotational deployments of Chinese fighter jets to Woody Island were part of a disturbing trend of militarization that raised questions about Beijing’s intentions in the South China Sea, which is an important trade route.
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the presence of a fighter aircraft on Woody Island was not something unexpected.
“It is already heavily militarized; no surprise we would be seeing military aircraft there,” the official said.
Full article: China fighter plane spotted on South China Sea island: think tank (Reuters)