Chinese officials warned a US military aircraft flying near South Korea Sunday, telling its pilots that they were illegally operating in Chinese airspace and ordering the American plane to leave, a US defense official told CNN.
The pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft responded to the Chinese air traffic controllers, saying that they were conducting routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path, according to US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Maj. Phil Ventura.
The bombers had entered a controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which covers airspace and islands that are also claimed by Japan.
“Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,” Ventura told CNN.
“The ADIZ has not changed our operations.”
The US plane was flying 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.
The ADIZ declaration required airlines flying over the designated waters to first notify Chinese authorities before transiting. The US and Japanese governments do not recognize China’s claim on the area.
According to the US Air Force, the Guam-based B-1 bomber was conducting a series of training missions with Japanese and South Korean military aircraft.
“Our increased cooperation enables our combined forces to rapidly react to counter aggression against Japan and other allies and partners,” said US Maj. Ryan Simpson, the Pacific Air Forces bomber operations chief in a statement announcing the training mission.