China fired two missiles into the South China Sea on Wednesday, August 26 in an apparent warning against the United States’ alleged incursion in disputed waters and airspace.
Two missiles were launched into an area between Hainan province and the Paracel islands, a source told the South China Morning Post, after Beijing said a U.S. U-2 spy plane flew into a no-fly zone imposed during China’s live-fire naval military exercises.
Chinese military forces were conducting exercises in the region when the U-2 flight allegedly happened.
A spokesperson of China’s defense ministry chided the U.S., saying the action “seriously interfered in normal exercise activities” and “severely incurred the risk of misjudgment and even of bringing about an unintended air-sea incident.”
“This was a naked act of provocation,” spokesperson Wu Qian said in a statement.
According to SCMP, China fired two missiles: a DF-26 which has a range of 4,000km (2,485 miles) and a DF-21 which has a range of around 1,800km.
Asked about the missile firing, Scott D. Conn, a U.S. navy vice admiral, said Beijing has “every right to do so” as long as they’re doing it “they’re doing it in accordance with international law and norms.”
U.S. Pacific Air Forces confirmed the U-2 flight in a statement to CNN, but denied violating any rules.
“A U-2 sortie was conducted in the Indo-Pacific area of operations and within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights,” the statement said. “Pacific Air Forces personnel will continue to fly and operate anywhere international law allows, at the time and tempo of our choosing.”
While countries are distracted by the worsening pandemic, China has been doing naval drills in the South China Sea, a resource-rich maritime area that Beijing is claiming in its entirety. Neighboring countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the sea.
The U.S. is insisting on conducting regular “freedom of navigation” operations and patrols in the area.
Relations between the U.S. and China have worsened amid a dragging trade war. The firing of the missiles came around the same time the Trump administration sanctioned 24 Chinese companies that constructed military facilities in the hotly contested features in the South China Sea.