U.S. planes have been increasingly hit with lasers while operating in the Pacific. Since September of 2017, there have been 20 incidents and military officials suspect that the source of these lasers is the Chinese.
The latest incident occurred within the last two weeks, the official said.
None of the incidents have resulted in any medical complaints or injuries, the spokeswoman said. The attacks appear similar to incidents that occurred in the East African country of Djibouti earlier in the year when US military airmen were injured by lasers which the US military said originated from a nearby Chinese military base.
China’s Ministry of National Defense dismissed media reports concerning the incidents, according to a piece published in the Chinese state-run Global Times tabloid. A ministry source called the US accusations “groundless and fabricated,” according to the newspaper.
The latest round of suspected laser attacks have all occurred in and around the East China Sea, which is home to disputed island chains, including the Senkaku, claimed by both Japan and China, where they are known as the Diaoyu.
The area’s waters are near heavy-traffic shipping lanes, and are used regularly by both Japanese and Chinese military and civilian ships, as well as a semi-autonomous “maritime militia” which defends China’s territorial interests in the region.
The Wall Street Journal reported that military officials don’t necessarily believe the attacks were initiated by official Chinese military sources, but would not rule out that those responsible were acting on behalf of the Chinese government.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, an industry publication, quoted a spokeswoman for the US Marines who said that the attacks had originated “from a range of different sources, both ashore and from fishing vessels.”
The incidents in the region over the past several months echo similar tactics the Pentagon says were carried out by the Chinese military earlier this year, when personnel at the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti used military-grade lasers to interfere with US military aircraft from a nearby American base.
The laser incidents in Djibouti resulted in injuries to U.S. pilots, where the United States launched a formal diplomatic protest with Beijing. Initially, the Chinese claimed to have used a laser to scare birds away from their own airfield, close by the U.S. but have denied any wrongdoing.
Chinese state media denied the laser story and accused the U.S. of “cooking up phony laser stories.”
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