Chinese military planes have been intensively attacking our neighboring airspace on a daily basis, and this (22nd) morning at 7:00 a.m. the intrusion into the southwest airspace was driven away, which is also the earliest record this year. But U.S. military aircraft on the same day also refreshed the closest distance to China’s coastal reconnaissance!
China’s semi-official South China Sea Strategic Situational Awareness Program (SCSPI) of Peking University announced in a Weibo post today that a U.S. Air Force RC-135U electronic reconnaissance aircraft (nicknamed “Combat Dispatch”) entered the South China Sea via the Bus Strait to conduct reconnaissance of the South China Sea. The aircraft approached 25.33 nautical miles (46.9 kilometers) off the baseline of the territorial waters and then turned back, which was the closest publicly known U.S. approach to China.
SCSPI noted that U.S. reconnaissance of China usually remains at about 50-70 nautical miles off the coastline, but 25.33 nautical miles is a departure from the norm, basically approaching the edge of the contiguous zone (24 nautical miles), indicating a further increase in the intensity of U.S. reconnaissance, which will certainly lead to an increase in potential military risk.
In addition, the U.S. Navy also sent a P-8A anti-submarine patrol aircraft and an EP-3E electronic reconnaissance aircraft to the South China Sea for reconnaissance today.