The Pentagon says China is responsible for nearly 10 instances of military-grade lasers being flashed at American pilots trying to landing at a base in Africa, charges Beijing dismissed Friday as "groundless accusations."
The U.S. believes Chinese nationals are perpetrating the laser attacks, which have caused minor injuries to two pilots, and has filed a formal complaint asking Beijing to investigate, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. But China pushed back, denying any culpability.
"After careful verification, we have told the U.S. explicitly that the so-called accusations are totally inconsistent with facts," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Friday, AFP reported. "You can remind relevant people in the U.S. to pay attention to facts and not to make groundless accusations."
The base China has recently built in Djibouti – the country's first station overseas – is suspected to be the source of the laser attacks, and it's located just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, which is used for American counterterrorism operations in the region.
China's Defense Ministry also denied having any role in the laser incidents.
"China always strictly abides by international law and the law of the country of residency and is committed to maintaining regional security and stability," the ministry said in a statement posted on its website, according to the Associated Press.
White estimated Thursday there has been fewer than 10 “very serious” laser incidents around the base in recent weeks.
"This activity poses a true threat to our airmen,” she added.
In one case, two pilots flying a C-130 cargo plane suffered minor eye injuries while attempting to land, Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Sheryll Klinkel told AFP.
The Federal Aviation Administration has also put out a notice warning pilots to be on alert when operating aircraft in the Horn of Africa region.