Pentagon accuses China of using lasers against U.S. pilots in Djibouti

  • Pentagon accuses China of using lasers against U.S. pilots in Djibouti

Pentagon accuses China of using lasers against U.S. pilots in Djibouti

Military researchers at Jane's Defence Weekly reported last month that Beijing installed a high-powered laser system at its Djibouti base, or possibly on a ship at the nearby naval station.

The United States has issued a formal complaint to China on Thursday, claiming two U.S. pilots were injured in Djibouti by Chinese laser beams.

While the United States officials did not elaborate on how the pilots were injured, CNN cited a notice to airmen saying the crew of the C-130 suffered eye injuries.

"They are very serious incidents".

The Chinese recently built a base near Camp Lemonnier, the US base in Djibouti. The lasers were reported to have originated from a nearby Chinese base, CNN said.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had informed the USA that "after strict verification, we have told the USA side that what they alleged is absolutely untrue".

The US military has also issued a Notice to Airmen, which the Federal Aviation Administration sent out in April too, about "multiple lazing events involving a high power laser" in Djibouti, and to "use extreme caution when transiting near this area", according to the Diplomat.

The 500-acre Camp Lemonnier base was set up after the September 11 attacks, and it coordinates U.S. military activities in the West African and Middle Eastern region. China is a major trading partner for Djibouti and maintains a base on the island.

The facility's opening raised concerns among American military officials about the proximity of the Chinese military installation to American forces, it said.

"This activity poses a true threat to our airmen", she added.

Over the last couple of weeks, in at least two and perhaps as many as 10 incidents, US aircraft landing at the base were hit by laser beams.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said that the USA is confident that Chinese nationals are responsible for the use of the lasers, which targeted aircraft on several occasions in the last few weeks.

Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who oversees U.S. Africa Command, acknowledged the challenges of China's presence during a speech before Congress back in March.

Former U.S. Air Force Pacific commander and research analyst Trey Meeks, though, said China's actions could be viewed as "harassment".

White said the Pentagon was confident the lasers had been pointed by Chinese nationals and in the past few weeks fewer than 10 incidents had taken place.