Feb 27, 2023

Hear Chinese Warning to U.S. Plane in Midair Over South China Sea Transcript

Hear Chinese Warning to U.S. Plane in Midair Over South China Sea Transcript
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CNN’s Ivan Watson takes a ride on a US Navy jet over the South China Sea and witnesses tensions at play between the US and China during a close encounter with a Chinese fighter jet. Read the transcript here.

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Brianna Keilar (00:00):

Tensions are rising in one of the most hotly contested regions on the planet, the South China Sea. From militarized artificial islands to fighter jets and war planes, China’s heavy presence in the disputed region is putting the US and its allies on notice. CNN got rare access aboard a US Navy surveillance flight and saw firsthand some tense moments with China’s military. Here’s CNN’s Ivan Watson.

Ivan Watson (00:25):

This is a close encounter with the Chinese warplane, filmed just off the wing of a US Navy reconnaissance plane flying over the South China Sea.

(00:35)
We’re getting a closeup look at a Chinese fighter jet. The aircrew here identifies it as a J11, a two-seater that they say is armed with air-to-air missiles and it’s been shadowing this US Navy plane now for about 15 minutes. It is pretty remarkable to see this Chinese warplane operating at such close proximity to several hundred feet away from our aircraft.

(01:06)
The Chinese fighter escort, part of a regular routine.

Speaker 3 (01:10):

I’d say it’s another Friday afternoon South China Sea.

Ivan Watson (01:13):

The US Navy invited CNN to fly on a P8 reconnaissance plane, taking off from a US air base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

(01:24)
Along the way, picking up fuel from a flying gas station.

(01:29)
We’re refueling in midair right now, flying just about 40 feet away from a KC-135 tanker plane.

(01:39)
The plane is headed past the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, to the South China Sea, which China also claims almost all for itself, ignoring competing claims from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

(01:55)
Some 30 miles from the Chinese occupied Paracel Islands, a Chinese voice crackles over the radio.

Speaker 5 (02:04):

American aircraft, this is the PRA Air Force. You’re approaching Chinese airspace. Keep a safe distance or [inaudible 00:02:12].

Ivan Watson (02:11):

That’s when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army fighter jet appears flying so close you can see the pilots in their cockpit.

Speaker 6 (02:20):

Fighter aircraft, this is US Navy, PA on CHF 121.5. I hold you off my left wing and I intend to continue to proceed to the west.

Ivan Watson (02:30):

The Chinese pilot never responds, but eventually leaves when the US plane turns south.

Speaker 6 (02:37):

It’s like oil spots as they build on one reef and then build on another.

Ivan Watson (02:42):

Commodore Will [inaudible 00:02:44] shows the network of manmade island China built on what had been coral reefs claimed by other countries.

Speaker 6 (02:51):

Our number one focus here is to ensure that we have continued access alongside all of our allies and partners to international airspace and international waters.

Ivan Watson (03:03):

The US presence here aimed at preventing further encroachment by China.

Speaker 7 (03:08):

Charlie, copy. No worries.

Ivan Watson (03:09):

We’re flying at a low altitude, a thousand feet, a little more than 300 meters above sea level east of Taiwan, looking for a Chinese warship currently believed to be operating in these stormy waters. The plane spots a Chinese guided missile destroyer.

Speaker 8 (03:37):

US aircraft, US aircraft, this is Chinese navy warship. You are approaching me. Keep safe distance away from me. Over.

Speaker 6 (03:37):

I’m a United States military aircraft and I will remain a safe distance from your unit.

Ivan Watson (03:40):

A cat and mouse game between two rival militaries in one of the most hotly contested regions in the world.

(03:49)
Ivan Watson, CNN, over the South China Sea.

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