Fact checks about countries

FACT CHECK: No US assault on China Coast Guard in East China Sea


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FACT CHECK: No US assault on China Coast Guard in East China Sea
The misleading video shows altered footage of a decommissioned US ship during a 2016 sink at-sea live-fire training exercise

Claim: A US F-35 jet bombed a Chinese Coast Guard vessel patrolling the East China Sea on September 27, 2023.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video containing the claim was posted on September 28 and has garnered 51,074 views and 799 likes. It was posted by a channel with 118,000 subscribers.

The video showed close-up shots of a smoking naval ship as supposed proof of the US attack on China.

The bottom line: A reverse image search shows that the damaged ship seen in the video was altered footage of the decommissioned USS Crommelin, which was intentionally sunk during the 2016 sink at-sea live-fire training exercises (SINKEX).

The guided-missile frigate was hit by live fire on July 19, 2016, as part of the multinational exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) held 55 nautical miles north of Kauai, Hawaii.

No official reports: Neither the US Department of Defense nor the Chinese-state-owned Xinhua Agency has reported on the supposed recent confrontation between the two military forces. No similar stories can be found on mainstream media outlets and websites such as Defense News.

East China Sea incident: The US and China did have previous encounters in the East China Sea, but one such incident in March 2022 involved US F-35 fighter jets and China’s J-20 stealth fighters, not a Chinese coast guard ship. 

In recent months, the two countries have figured in tense encounters, but these were mostly in the South China Sea. In February 2023, a Chinese fighter jet confronted a US Navy plane, and in June 2023 a Chinese warship nearly collided with a US destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.

Tensions in the East China Sea: While the territorial disputes in the South China Sea command international attention, analysts say tensions in the East China Sea may also draw the US into a conflict with China. Both China and Japan claim a set of islands in the East China Sea. Earlier in 2023, Washington and Tokyo agreed to strengthen security ties amid shared concerns over China’s hostile acts.

False claims: Rappler and VERA Files previously debunked similar claims involving a US F-35 jet and a Chinese Coast Guard vessel in the West Philippine Sea.

Rappler has also published several fact-checks on other supposed attacks on China and its military forces:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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