Is China Threatening To Shoot-Down ‘Civilian Airlines’ Operating Over The South China Sea?

China has warned the US after it flew its ‘spy planes’ over the South China Sea several times electronically disguising as a civilian airplane.

“It is the old trick of the US military to use a transponder code to impersonate civil aircraft of other countries,” said Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Wenbin, during his briefing.

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A report by Beijing think tank the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) said that US surveillance aircraft had been disguising as civilian planes of other countries operating alongside China’s coastlines.

In a recent incident, SCSPI reported that between September 8-10, a US Air Force spy plane disguised as a Malaysian civilian plane entered the South China Sea and patrolled intensively over the disputed Paracel Islands as well as the sensitive Taiwan Strait and the Yellow Sea near the Chinese coast.

During the briefing, this report was confirmed by the Foreign Minister. “We urge the US side to immediately stop such dangerous, provocative behaviors to avoid accidents in the air and at sea,” said Wenbin.

He claimed that the US has disguised the identity of its reconnaissance aircraft as civilian planes at least 100 times this year. “This above-mentioned practice is egregious, which has severely violated international aviation rules, disrupted the aviation order and safety in relevant airspace, and threatened the security of China and countries in the region,” he added.

These remarks are seen as confirmation of the SCSPI report about US reconnaissance aircraft disguising as a Malaysian civilian plane. All planes are registered with the Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and are recognized by a unique code called a “hex code”.

The code is used for identification if interrogated by an air traffic control radar. In an event of the device is turned off or reconfigured, there is a risk of misidentification or even collusion.

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“This undoubtedly added up to great risk and uncertainty to international flight safety, which could lead to misjudgment (by ground air defense systems) and probably bring danger to civilian aircraft especially those being impersonated,” said the SCSPI report.

In 1983, a Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union air force killing all 269 people on board as the plane was mistakenly identified as a US spy plane.

The US activity in the South China Seas has massively increased. China and the US have been at loggerheads with both the sides muscle-flexing its military strength in the disputed sea.

Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has conducted aerial drills intruding in the Republic Of China (Taiwan)’s airspace for two consecutive days. Taiwan has scrambled its interceptors and ready its anti-aircraft missile.

Last month SCSPI claimed that a US EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft was landed in Taiwan which it said was identified through open-source aircraft identification information. However, Tapei denied the claim as “totally against the facts”.