The Chinese military told the United States (US) Navy to depart immediately during its patrol in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), despite its conduct of lawful military operations in international airspace. CNN journalist Ivan Watson was on the same aircraft when the US Navy received the evacuation notice from the Chinese military.

In the footage, a Chinese official can be heard saying: “Depart immediately… depart immediately.” Then a US naval officer immediately replied: “I am a United States military aircraft conducting lawful military operations in international airspace.”

“I would witness similar challenges two years ago on a different US navy flight over this increasingly tense region. At least seven different governments have competing claims… but Beijing claims virtually all of this for itself. To cement its claim, China embarked on a massive island-building project constructing runways and radar stations on what had been reefs,” Watson added.

Territorial claims in the WPS are now considered as the most potentially dangerous point of conflict in Asia. The Beijing government claims almost the entirety of the disputed waters, demarcating it within what is known as the nine-dotted line which overlaps with virtually every other country in the region.

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