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September 26, 2017

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US Air Force to keep flying over South China Sea: general

CANBERRA, Australia--The U.S. Air Force will continue to fly daily missions over the South China Sea despite a buildup of mainland Chinese surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets in the contested region, with both forces' militaries in discussions to avoid any miscalculations, a top U.S. general said Tuesday.

Gen. Lori Robinson, the commander of the Pacific Air Forces, also urged other nations to exercise their freedom to fly and sail in international airspace and waters claimed by mainland China in the South China Sea "or risk losing it throughout the region."

"We've watched the increased military capability on those islands, whether it's the fighters, whether it's the missiles or the 10,000-foot runways. We will continue to do as we've always done, and that is fly and sail in international airspace in accordance to international rules and norms," Robinson told reporters in Australia's capital, Canberra, where she will address the Royal Australian Air Force's biennial Air Power Conference next week.

Robinson declined to say how the United States would retaliate if a U.S. plane was shot down by the mainland Chinese.

Several governments have conflicting claims in the South China Sea, a major conduit for world trade. The U.S. lays no claims to the waters, but says it has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and non-use of force and coercion to assert claims.

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