Chinese and Russian media are highlighting what they're reporting as multiple instances of a US spy plane changing its transponder code in order to disguise itself during operations near China.
The latest reported instance came Wednesday morning, involving a US Air Force RC-135S Cobra Ball out of Okinawa attempting to observe Chinese PLA missile tests being conducted in the Yellow Sea.
It was a Chinese think tank called the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), based at China’s Peking University, that first observed the strange behavior of a plane which appeared on tracking radar as a "mysterious Malaysian plane" soon after an Air Force jet "went dark" by allegedly switching off its transponder.
The plane purporting via transponder to be Malaysian ended up flying for some six hours over the Yellow Sea before it returned to Okinawa, setting off red flags given Okinawa remains home to sprawling US military bases.
>>>Suspected US Surveillance Plane in Disguise as a Malaysian Plane, Again— SCS Probing Initiative (@SCS_PI) September 9, 2020
Around 3 am of Sep 9, USAF RC-135S (#AE01CE) took off from #Kadena for Northbound, and shortly it turned off the transponder.[1/2] pic.twitter.com/ya3jD4c21p
The SCSPI posted flight tracking data underscoring the "Malaysian plane's" unusual flight pattern and alleged it was actually the Air Force surveillance aircraft in disguise.
The obective appeared to be "collecting data on ballistic missiles from PLA military exercises held in the Bohai Sea" - which extends from the Yellow Sea.
Later on the same route appeared a "Malaysian plane"(#752B29), which entered the #YellowSea, hovered over and over from 5 am to 11 am, which probably was the RC-135S in disguise, collecting data on ballistic missiles from #PLA's military exercises held in #BohaiSea.[2/2] pic.twitter.com/bjFfLeaO59— SCS Probing Initiative (@SCS_PI) September 9, 2020
The alleged surveillance incident came the same day that Beijing formally charged that the United States is becoming the main "driver of militarization in the South China Sea."
The communist-run country's senior diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Wednesday, "the United States is directly intervening in territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea due to its own political needs," as presented by Reuters.