In a dramatic video circulating on social media, an airliner narrowly avoided being hit by a missile, reportedly launched from a Chinese submarine in the disputed South China Sea.
The plane was flying over the South China Sea when Air Traffic Control (ATC) issued a frantic call, “Turn left 90 degrees immediately!!.”
The gravity of the situation can be grasped by listening to unknown persons in the video discussing whether or not the missile is heading their way.
The projectile can be seen emerging from the sea’s surface and soaring to a high altitude at the front of the aircraft. The footage was shared online by Twitter user @jchovernut, a pilot for Allegiant Air and a veteran of the US Navy’s submarine community.
To their bewilderment, they spotted a SLBM emerging from the sea below their previously intended flight path!! PLAN Missile Submarine launch with very little regard to Commercial Air Traffic in the area!! That would’ve been me on the ‘delivery end’ of that Missile 30 years ago!
— Captain Overnight (@jchovernut) May 24, 2022
The clip was purportedly recorded from a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777, according to a subsequent post of the video on Facebook. Cathay Pacific, however, stated that no such incident had taken place.
Meanwhile, the actual date and location of the video’s shooting remain unknown. There are no noticeable Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) or other pictures linked to missile or rocket launches in the region.
The regional tensions are already high because of the intense maneuvering of the Chinese military and North Korean military. Between May 19 and May 23, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced that it would undertake drills in the South China Sea.
These overlapped with US President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan. However, no live-fire missile tests were mentioned in Beijing’s announcement.
Pyongyang did conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test on May 7, but the site was kilometers away from the South China Sea.
In 2017, a North Korean missile launch was seen by the crew of a Cathay Pacific plane heading north of Japan. However, it’s unclear if this video depicts the past event. Yet, if it is an unannounced missile launch, such an incident might spark a major confrontation in the region and jeopardize the passenger plane’s safety.
China’s Military Drills In The Region
The military stance of Beijing in the region is growing increasingly belligerent. China’s maritime administration said that it would conduct naval exercises in the South China Sea on May 28.
The latest drills will take place less than 25 kilometers off the coast of Hainan Province in South China. This comes as the US continues to issue statements about China’s increasing military and economic footprint in a region that stretches from the South China Sea to the Pacific Islands.
“Military exercises will be held, and entry is prohibited,” the Maritime Safety Administration stated in a statement on Thursday, announcing a five-hour closure of a 100-square-kilometer area to maritime traffic.
While the PLA fleet conducts such maneuvers regularly, the latest exercises come as the US and Western allies express growing alarm about Beijing’s military intentions.
For Instance, it was recently reported that Indonesia is contemplating launching joint military exercises with the US on the Natuna Islands, which are close to China’s self-proclaimed territorial border and a potential hotspot in Beijing’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea.
On May 26, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Beijing for escalating tensions over Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.
“Beijing has engaged in increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity like flying PLA aircraft near Taiwan on an almost daily basis,” Blinken said in a speech. He also advocated for actions to counteract China’s “intent to reshape the international order.”
Blinken’s remarks came after a verbal spat between Beijing and Washington over President Joe Biden’s commitment to supporting Taiwan if it was attacked by China. In response, China has pledged to safeguard its national interests in Taiwan, urging Washington not to “underestimate” Beijing’s will and capability in the matter.
Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand have raised concerns about leaked documents purporting to depict a proposal for comprehensive security cooperation between China and 10 Pacific Island countries.
However, China has asserted that its engagement with Pacific Island governments “does not target any country,” and it has denied charges that it is pressing small states to sign security treaties.