China denies laser attack on US pilots at Djibouti base
Beijing, May 4 : China today dismissed US’ charge that its personnel at Djibouti logistics military base in the Horn of Africa used military-grade lasers to target American aircraft injuring the pilots, saying that Pentagon’s accusation is “groundless”.
The US has formally complained to China, alleging that the Chinese military injured two US airmen by directing high-grade lasers at American aircraft in Djibouti, The Washington Post reported.
The incidents with the lasers, which can temporarily blind pilots, come as one of the first major dust-up since China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017, the report said.
The Chinese Defence Ministry in a statement dismissed the accusations from US officials as ungrounded.
China always firmly honours international laws and the laws of Djibouti, and is dedicated to safeguarding regional security and peace, it said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also refuted the allegations.
“After careful verification, we have told the US explicitly that accusation is inconsistent with the facts,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing while replying to a question.
When pressed for details, she shot back, saying “you can remind certain people in the US that they should pay attention to the facts and do not make groundless accusations”.
The Post report quoted Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W White as saying that US has requested China to investigate incidents in recent weeks in which American aircraft in Djibouti have been affected by unauthorised Chinese laser activity.
White said two American airmen had suffered minor injuries but didn’t provide details.
According to CNN, two members of a C-130 aircrew suffered minor eye injuries because of exposure to military-grade lasers.
White said the Pentagon was confident that Chinese nationals were responsible. There had been more than two but fewer than 10 such incidents, she said, adding that frequency has been increased in recent weeks.
“It’s a serious matter. And we’re taking it very seriously,” White was quoted as saying by the Post report.
While both the US and China have bases in Djibouti in the Indian Ocean, China denies it is a military base.
Beijing claims it is a logistics base to provide resting facilities for the crew taking part in the naval expeditions to the Indian Ocean to fight the pirates in Gulf of Aden.
Djibouti has become a hub of foreign military activities in recent years, hosting bases from an array of countries including France, Italy and Japan. Saudi Arabia is planning to build a base there as well, the Post said.
Camp Lemonnier, a US naval expeditionary base in Djibouti that is home to about 4,000 American service members, serves as a hub for American counterterrorism activities in nearby countries such as Somalia and Yemen.
The US also has been running drone operations out of Djibouti.
The facility’s opening raised concerns among American military officials about the proximity of the Chinese military installation to American forces, it said.
American authorities recently issued a notice warning pilots that there had been incidents involving “a high-power laser” near the Chinese base in Djibouti.
The notice urged pilots to “use extreme caution when transiting near the area,” it said.