10/06/2034 11:54 PM ET

NEWS

Chinese Fighter Jet Escorted Away From Navy Vessel

Callum McCloud
Foreign Affairs Reporter, East Asia

CC BY-SA 4.0 - image changes released under same license J-31 at Zhuhai by 天剣2 | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 Head Shot by slgckgc | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
A J-40 in a training exercise last year.
In a stunning escalation of the South China Sea crisis, a Chinese fighter jet has been escorted from a United States Navy vessel after firing live ammunition in its vicinity in Bruneian waters.

The USS St. Louis was enroute to Muara Naval Base, Brunei, in preparation for joint military exercises with The Royal Brunei Navy.

Pacific Command issued a statement shortly after the incident.

"The Chinese aircraft, believed to be a Shenyang J-40, flew over and alongside the St. Louis several times, before peeling off and flying at low altitude parallel to the St. Louis. It then proceeded to fire live ammunition into the water for approximately five seconds while no more than sixty feet to starboard."

The statement confirmed that the St. Louis was several kilometres inside Brunei's territorial waters at the time of the incident.

The St. Louis attempted communication several times with no response. F-35s of the Royal Brunei airforce were dispatched and escorted the jet from Brunei's airspace.

Both Brunei and the White House have lodged protests with each nation's Chinese ambassador.

This latest incident follows a disturbing trend as China looks to solidify its presence in the South China Sea. After completing the artificial deepwater Baozu Naval Base several kilometres south-east of the Paracel Islands in 2025, China has become more aggressive in its claims upon other island chains in the region.

In the past three years China has fought and won naval conflicts with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines to accomplish de facto control of the Spratly Islands. Its military continues to press the country's claims in oil and gas deposits near the Philippines, Brunei/Malaysia and Vietnam.

White House sources report that China feels slighted by the United States' continued disregard of its claims and advocacy for its foes' claims in the region.

US-Bruneian joint exercises begin next Tuesday and continue for two weeks.
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