Defense Secretary Esper lodges protest with China over laser fired at U.S. Navy plane

(USA Features) Defense Secretary Mark Esper lodged a formal complaint with his Chinese counterpart after a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship directed a laser at a U.S. Navy maritime patrol jet near Guam in February.

On Tuesday, called Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to discuss several issues, including the Feb. 17 laser incident some 380 miles west of Guam, the Washington Times reported.

“During the call, Secretary Esper raised concern over an incident on Feb. 17 in which a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was lased by PRC navy destroyer 161 while flying in airspace above international waters,” the Pentagon said in a statement issued Friday.

The Chinese government has been silent regarding the incident, the paper reported.

“Secretary Esper called on the People’s Liberation Army to conduct itself safely and professionally in accordance with bilateral agreements and international standards of safety at sea,” the Pentagon statement said. “The incident underscores the need for the two militaries to enhance bilateral crisis communication mechanisms to ensure incidents like this do not escalate or lead to miscalculation.”

P-8’s are normally armed with torpedoes and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Under certain circumstances, laser firings at U.S. planes or ships can be considered a hostile act if done as part of an air defense maneuver.

U.S. military forces operate under rules of engagement that permit them to defend defend themselves under such instances.

Chinese forces have directed lasers at U.S. forces in the past, including an incident in Djibouti when a PLA unit fired one at a U.S. helicopter crew, injuring their eyes.

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