US warplanes fly 76.5km away from Shanghai as tensions remain high amid consulate closures

American warplanes have flew close to Mainland China, reaching within 76.5km of Shanghai, one of the closest passes in recent years, according to South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Peking University think tank.

This occurred amid heightened tensions between United States and China after both asked each other to vacate embassies.

READ: Locals celebrate as United States leaves Chengdu consulate in China

United States P-8A (Poseidon) anti-submarine plane and an EP-3E reconnaissance plane entered the Taiwan Strait, flying near the coast of Zhejiang and Fujian on Sunday.

South China Morning Post reported that the US Navy P-8A was operating near Shanghai, with the USS Rafael Peralta, a guided-missile destroyer, following a similar route, asking “might be a joint operation”.

It was the 12th day in a row that US military planes have approached the mainland coast, it added.

Earlier, EP-3E, E-8C surveillance planes were flying 185km or less of the southeast coast of Guangdong province on four separate occasions in the past week.

“At the moment the US military is sending three to five reconnaissance aircraft each day to the South China Sea,” the think tank said, adding the US military planes have come unusually close to mainland airspace several times since April.

According to its statistics, US planes made a record 50 sorties over the South China Sea in the first three weeks of July.

In 2001, a US navy signals intelligence aircraft collided in mid-air with a Chinese interceptor near Hainan province, killing a Chinese pilot.

Earlier, this month two US aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups conducted dual carrier operation in the disputed South China Sea amid China’s drills. Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square miles South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

This is the first time the two US aircraft carriers visited the area in recent time to challenge China’s claim over almost all of the South China Sea.