Beijing accuses US Air Force of disguising spy plane missions as Malaysian civilian airliners over South China Sea

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that the US Air Force has been flying missions over the South China Sea disguised with Malaysian civil aircraft codes, and that the action is provocative and dangerous.

According to Chinese media reports, a United States Air Force RC-135W electronic reconnaissance aircraft took off from an airbase on Okinawa at 8:00 am this morning. Shortly after taking off, the identification signal disappeared, then an aircraft identified as a Malaysian passenger plane appeared on a flight path consistent with the same route.

The has happened for three consecutive days, the reports said, accusing the US of using Malaysian civil aircraft identification codes to conduct surveillance on China.

At a press conference today, September 16, MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced the US military for fraudulently using civil aviation aircraft electronic identification codes, calling it a ‘customary’ tactic of the US military.

“We urge the US to immediately stop the above-mentioned dangerous and provocative actions and avoid sea and air accidents” Wang said.

Chinese Communist Party propaganda outlet The Global Times asked at the press conference: “A US reconnaissance aircraft used a transponder code to electronically impersonate a Malaysian airliner while spying on China’s Hainan Island and Xisha Islands. Do you have any comment?”

Wang Wenbin responded: “It is the old trick of the US military to use a transponder code to impersonate civil aircraft of other countries. According to incomplete data, since the beginning of this year, the US reconnaissance aircraft have electronically impersonated civil aircraft of other countries in the South China Sea for more than a hundred times. This above-mentioned practice is egregious, which has severely violated international aviation rules, disrupted the aviation order and safety in relevant airspace, threatened the security of China and countries in the region. China firmly opposes that.”

“We urge the US side to immediately stop such dangerous, provocative behaviors to avoid accidents in the air and at sea. China will continue work with regional countries to firmly safeguard the freedoms and safety of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea as well as the peace and stability in the region.”

See transcript of press conference on Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland website.

Beijing think-tank SCS Probing Initiatives reported a USAF RC-135W flying disguised as a Malaysian plane on September 8, and again September 10. The SCSPI claim was reported in Malaysia’s The Star and Popular Mechanics earlier this month.

The SCS Probing Initiative think tank has been condemned by Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense as a source of fake news after it released “a string of false claims,” including that a US military plane had taken off from a base in Taiwan, and that USS Halsey had sailed between the Penghu Islands and Taiwan.

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