(National Sentinel) Conflict: The Pentagon has confirmed that Chinese nations aimed and fired lasters near their military base in East Africa against U.S. military aircraft in the region, injuring a number of pilots.
According to Defense Department Press Secretary Dana White, the U.S. government has responded with diplomatic protests to Beijing over several incidents of firing lasers near China’s first overseas military base in the small African nation of Djibouti.
The U.S. has long maintained a military base in the vicinity of the Chinese base.
“These are very serious incidents. There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a threat to our airmen,” she told reporters.
“We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we’ve requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents,” she added.
It’s not clear if Chinese military personnel from the base are firing the lasers or if they’re Chinese nationals stationed there. Beijing has been silent on the allegations, though a Chinese military expert told the Global Times newspaper, a state-run media organ, that the U.S. allegations were “baseless.”
White said the number of incidents is “more than two but less than ten,” and that the firings have taken place in recent weeks. She did not speculate on the motive for the attacks.
“I believe there have been cases where this has happened previously,” White said. “But what this started was these last few weeks we decided to become very serious about it, and we have demarched the Chinese, and we’ve asked for the investigation.”
China opened the military base in Djibouti last year and plans to deploy some 400 troops there, the Free Beacon reports.
China says the purpose of its new base is to serve as a hub to conduct anti-piracy operations.
But U.S. experts and the military intelligence community say the base is part of China’s ambitious plans to spread its influence globally as the country rises in wealth and stature.
The Free Beacon reported further:
The Djibouti incidents appear similar to the 1997 incident involving a Russian merchant ship that was shadowing a Navy missile submarine and fired a laser on a Canadian surveillance helicopter.
The laser damaged the eyes of the Navy Lt. Jack Daly and Canadian pilot Captain Patrick Barnes near Washington state and was covered up by the administration of President Bill Clinton.
China and the United States have battled over international trade and finance after the Trump administration announced it will impose tariffs on China for its unfair trade practices.
There are some 4,000 U.S. military personnel in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. The Chinese base is about a mile away.
U.S. officials are concerned that China seeks to take over the deep-water port in the country. The Djibouti government owes China about $1.2 billion in construction costs.