In an apparent message to China late last week, the US Navy warned against targeting the American military with lasers.
“You don’t want to play laser tag with us,” the Navy cautioned on its Instagram account on 28 February, referring to a Chinese warship recently pointing a military grade laser “in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” at a US surveillance plane “in airspace above international waters”.
“These acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea,” the US Navy added.
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You don't want to play laser tag with us. 🔫 #ICYMI The Chinese Navy recently pointed a laser in an unsafe and unprofessional manner at a #USNavy P-8A flying in airspace above international waters. These acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea.
The incident, which took place in the Philippine Sea about 400 miles (640 kilometres) west of Guam, was reported by the US Pacific Fleet more than a week after it occurred. Chinese authorities have not commented on the matter yet.
In a 28 February release, the fleet claimed that on 17 February, a Chinese naval destroyer fired a military grade laser at the P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft.
“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor on board the P-8A. Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems,” the statement pointed out.
The US Navy pledged that despite the incident, its “aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows”.
As far as its Instagram message is concerned, it strangely contained an aerial photo of Woody Island, one of Beijing's largest island outposts in the South China Sea, with the text on the picture reading, “Meanwhile, in the South China Sea”. The Epoch Times news outlet suggested that the photo “is likely illustrative” given that the 17 February incident did not take place near the Woody Island.
Apart from Beijing, the South China Sea islands are claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Despite having no claims to the territories, the US is also actively engaged in the dispute, sending its military vessels to the South China Sea to fulfil “freedom of navigation” missions. These have sparked harsh criticism from Beijing, which describes such acts as “provocations”.