The United States said its two B-52 bombers had no intention of flying over a Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea, after Beijing accused Washington of “a serious military provocation” in the strategic waters with overlapping claims.
China’s Defense Ministry on Saturday accused the U.S. of deliberately raising tensions in the region, where China has been aggressively asserting its claims to virtually all islands, reefs and their surrounding seas. It reiterated that it would do whatever is necessary to protect China’s sovereignty.
Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said that the Dec. 10 mission was not a “freedom of navigation” operation and that there was “no intention of flying within 12 nautical miles of any feature,” indicating the mission may have strayed off course.
The U.S. uses pre-planned freedom of navigation operations to assert its rights to “innocent passage” in other country’s territorial waters.
Read More: News from The Associated Press