Beijing, June 7 (EFE).- China on Tuesday warned Australia of “serious consequences” if it did not stop its provocations in the South China Sea region, referring to an Australian military surveillance plane that flew over the contested waters recently.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Tan Kefei said an Australian P-8A ASW aircraft approached the airspace of the disputed Paracel Islands (known as Xisha in China), which Beijing claims, on May 26, state broadcaster CGTN reported.
After identifying the Australian plane, the Chinese military issued warnings and asked it to leave the area, Tan said.
The spokesperson said the aircraft threatened China’s sovereignty and security.
The Chinese military response was professional, safe, reasonable and legal, the spokesperson said.
China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.
However, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and the Philippines also have competing claims over territory.
The strategic sea, through which 30 percent of global trade moves, is also rich in oil, gas, and maritime reserves.
In a statement on Sunday, the Australian defense ministry said that “a RAAF P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft during a routine maritime surveillance activity in international airspace in the South China Sea region.”
“The intercept resulted in a dangerous maneuver which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew,” it added.
The ministry said that maritime surveillance activities had been conducted in the region for decades “in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace.”
However, it did not specify whether the plane passed over the Paracel Islands.
Bilateral relations between Australia and China have deteriorated significantly in recent years.
Escalating tensions have led to a trade dispute following China’s imposition of tariffs on several Australian exports to the Asian country. EFE