BEIJING — China said Friday it respects freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea despite reports its ground controllers issued warnings to U.S. strategic bombers flying over the area this week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday that China opposed flights that used such freedoms as mere legal cover, strongly implying that Beijing considered the flights by the B-52 bombers on Sunday and Monday as an excuse to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China “firmly opposes violating international law and undermining China’s sovereignty and security interests under the pretext of navigation and overflight freedom,” Hong told reporters at a regular news conference.
Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said Thursday the pair of B-52s flew routine missions in international airspace in the vicinity of the Spratly islands and received two verbal warnings from a Chinese ground controller.
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