Beijing accused the United States of flying a spy plane over where the Chinese military, known as the People’s Liberation Army, was conducting military exercises on Tuesday.
China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Wu Qian said the U.S. military’s use of the spy plane, an American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, was a purely provocative act against Beijing at a time when tensions between the two governments are running high. The spy plane “severely disrupted regular Chinese training activities,” Qian said according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Department of Defense (DOD) was not available for comment. The DOD did not respond to a request for comment from WSJ.
Qian accused the U.S. of violating aerial and maritime safety guidelines agreed upon between the two countries, as well as international norms. The spy plane’s mission could have easily led to a misunderstanding or accident. Qian did not say where the Chinese military drills were taking place or where the spy plane was spotted or what its flight path was.
“China is firmly opposed to this and has made solemn representations to the U.S.,” Qian said, according to WSJ.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have increased in recent years as President Trump has ramped up attacks on one of the United States’ largest trading partners over unfair trade practices and currency manipulation. The outbreak of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and the virus’ subsequent global spread have further deteriorated relations between the two countries.
The Chinese government initially hid the outbreak of the virus from the World Health Organization and the rest of the world, and for weeks after the outbreak misled the world about key aspects of the disease, such as how it spreads. The Chinese government also allowed roughly 5 million people to leave Wuhan while the outbreak was active, seeding the virus all over the world.
In an effort to restore some of its international reputation, the Chinese government shipped out millions of units of coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment to other countries. Large amounts of the supplies were defective and useless, however.
The United States has also been critical of China’s conduct toward Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government was supposed to remain a separate democracy from apart from Beijing’s full control for decades longer under an agreement between China and the United Kingdom, which previously oversaw Hong Kong as a territory.
In recent months, China has chipped away at Hong Kong’s independence and essentially scrapped it altogether with a new national security law that forbids Hong Kongers from advocating for Hong Kong’s independence. The law carries a maximum punishment of life in prison, and it not only applies to Hong Kong, but to everyone around the world.
“It literally applies to every single person on the planet. This is how it reads. If I appear at a congressional committee in D.C. and say something critical, that literally would be a violation of this law,” said Wang Minyao, a New York-based Chinese-American lawyer.