Defense Secretary scolds Chinese for pointing a laser at a U.S. Navy patrol plane

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A P-8A Poseidon assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 flies over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, Calif., in October 2016. US (Navy photo).

U.S. Defense Secretary has admonished his counterpart in Beijing over a February 17th incident during which a Chinese Navy destroyer pointed a laser at a U.S. Navy maritime patrol plane west of Guam.

According to a release from the Department of Defense, DOD Secretary Mark Esper telephoned Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe last Tuesday, March 3, and told him that the People’s Liberation Army should “conduct itself safely and professionally in accordance with bilateral agreements and international standards of safety at sea.”

According to the release, Esper raised concern over the incident “in which a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was lased by PRC navy destroyer … while flying in airspace above international waters approximately 380 miles west of Guam.”

The DOD release states that “the incident underscores the need for the two militaries to enhance bilateral crisis communication mechanisms to ensure incidents like this do not escalate or lead to miscalculation.”

READ the FULL news release on the February 28th incident in FULL below:

People’s Liberation Army Navy lased a U.S. Navy P-8A in unsafe, unprofessional manner

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The P-8A was operating in international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations. The PRC navy destroyer’s actions were unsafe and unprofessional.

Additionally, these acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea. CUES specifically addresses the use of lasers that could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment. The destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.

The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.

The P-8A is assigned to VP-45, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and is forward-deployed to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The squadron conducts routine operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

U.S Navy aircraft routinely fly in the Philippine Sea and have done so for many years. U.S. Navy aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.

U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and with the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than a century, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.