Chinese ‘military grade’ lasers injure two U.S. airmen in Djibouti

by WorldTribune Staff, May 4, 2018

The United States filed a formal diplomatic complaint after two U.S. airmen were injured by a Chinese laser in Djibouti, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) said.

People’s Liberation Army personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti on Aug. 1, 2017. / AFP via Getty Images

Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Sheryll Klinke said the injuries were the result of an incident in which two pilots of a C-130 aircraft were hit by a “military grade” laser. The pilots are not expected to suffer any long-term effects, Klinke said.

China’s Djibouti base is just a few miles from the U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, currently the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

The U.S. has formally lodged a diplomatic complaint, known as a demarche, with the Chinese government, requesting an investigation into the incident, the DoD said.

“This activity poses a true threat to our airmen,” DoD spokeswoman Dana White said. “It’s a serious matter, so we’re taking it very seriously.”

White indicated there were similar incidents in the past, where the U.S. did not take the formal step of issuing a diplomatic complaint, DefenseNews reported on May 3. The decision to do so now was the result of “both” the injuries and the increased rate of incidents, she said.

China Military Online, an official PLA outlet, reported in 2015 that “China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations. Blinding laser weapons are primarily used to blind its targets with laser in short distance, or interfere and damage the laser and night vision equipment, etc.”

The DoD said the U.S. has been bracing for issues in Djibouti since China first deployed forces to its base there in July 2017. The Djibouti base is China’s first overseas military outpost.

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