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Chinese Drone Spotted Near Philippines Ahead of Military Drills With US

A Chinese drone was recently spotted hovering close to the Philippines ahead of an annual military exercise between Manila and the US.

A local journalist, who was traversing the skies over the West Philippine Sea, was the first to notice the aerial object with a joint-wing design flying over the northwestern end of the South China Sea.

According to reports, the description matches that of the Chinese-made WZ-7 drone, which is owned and operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

A jet-powered platform, the so-called “Soaring Dragon” reportedly has an operational range of 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers) and a service ceiling of over 60,000 feet (18 kilometers).

It also boasts a minimum flight endurance of 10 hours, but several reports are claiming that its actual flight times might be far longer.

‘First Hard Evidence’

Tensions between China and the Philippines have sharply escalated over maritime disputes.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including areas near the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

The appearance of a WZ-7 drone northwest of the Philippine archipelago is said to be the first hard evidence that such platforms are operating over the South China Sea.

The same type of drone was allegedly seen hovering near the Taiwan Strait in 2022, fueling espionage concerns.

Balikatan 2024

The sighting of a Chinese drone near the Philippines has fueled speculation that Beijing is trying to spy on “Balikatan 2024,” a joint military drill between the US and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This year’s iteration is believed to feature exercises on the northernmost Philippine islands facing Taiwan.

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