China says it respects navigation freedom in South China Sea

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 4:18 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China says 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.

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.

Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said the two 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.

Urban said neither plane came inside the territorial airspace of any island or maritime feature and that they completed their missions without incident.