"This is the Chinese navy. … This is the Chinese navy. … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding." That was one of the warnings a CNN team heard aboard a P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft yesterday as part of a US mission over man-made islands created by the Chinese military in the South China Sea "to extend its zone of influence," as CNN frames it. The goal of the American plane, said to be our most sophisticated sub hunter and overall surveillance aircraft: to make sure Beijing knows the US isn't going to sit passively by and let that happen. Flying as low as 15,000 feet at one point, the plane was warned a total of eight times to stay away; it was flying in the airspace over the Fiery Cross reef, the Guardian reports.
Each time a reprimand came over the airwaves, the US pilots would "calmly" tell the operator on the other end that they were cruising through international airspace, per the CNN report—which obviously frustrated the Chinese operator, who at one point replied, "This is the Chinese navy … You go!" China has grown this particular group of islands by about 2,000 acres in just two years, CNN notes—an aggressive move that some think may not bode well for the US-China relationship. "There's a real risk, when you have this kind of confrontation, for something bad happening," former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell tells CNN.