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China threatens American bomber on exercise near the coast of South Korea

A B1 bomber with escort flies over the USS Carl Vinson, which is also on exercise in the South China Sea region

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying within their self declared ‘defence zone’ during a mission off South Korea.

In a defiant response to Chinese air traffic controllers, the pilot of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber replied that — in line with Pentagon policy — they were actually in international airspace.

The planes then continued on their flightpath, passing about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

China’s controversial Air Defence Identification Zone (in yellow)

The face-off came about because the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) — a self-declared status for an area of sky over the East China Sea.

The zone covers a number of islands claimed by Japan, and is not recognised by the US.

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US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura said: “Pacific Air Forces did not recognise the Chinese Air Defence Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognise it today.”

“The ADIZ has not changed our operations.”

However, Chinese authorities continue to demand that planes using the airspace must first notify officials.

Read more on the South China Sea dispute:

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Steve Bannon: There is “no doubt” of war with China over disputed waters

Duterte accuses USA of illegally stockpiling arms at military bases

Trump vs China: Fresh war of words over South China Sea dispute

China warns USA: Prepare for devastating war if you block us from disputed waters

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