• The footage was aired on the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV last week
  • PLA fighter pilot Gao Zengsong said he was ready to die for the mission 
  • An exchange of fire was averted after the vessel left the Chinese waters

A video aired by Chinese state television has featured a fighter pilot who claimed he was ready to "pull the trigger" on a foreign warship that reportedly intruded into Chinese waters in the South China Sea. Gao Zengsong, captain of a PLA Air Force unit, said he was willing to "sacrifice himself" for the mission.

The video that appeared on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV last week, however, did not mention when the incident happened. There was also no detail about the warship concerned, reported South China Morning Post.

It showed Gao, who reportedly piloted a JH-7 fighter bomber, referring to the ship which claims sailed close to the "Chinese territorial waters." The video does not mention the exact location, as the South China Sea is a subject of overlapping claims by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

Gao and his fellow pilots took off immediately after receiving orders to intercept the foreign vessel. "At the time, I could see from my airborne radar [the foreign ship] was moving. We were ready to pull the trigger," Gao says in the video.

He claimed to have issued warnings to the vessel. "I am the air force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. You have entered the control area of the Chinese air force. Please leave immediately. Otherwise, you will be responsible for the consequences," the warning sounded.

However, the vessel refused to leave the waters immediately and according to Gao, engaged in "provocative" behavior by continuing to move at a constant speed. "We have the responsibility to respond to all provocative phenomena by adversaries, to defend the sovereignty of our country. Even sacrificing myself, defending [the nation] with my life is worth it," he said.

The pilot also claimed to have left a message for his comrades as the situation worsened. "If I don’t come back, remember to send that letter from my locker to my child," Gao was quoted by CCTV.

However, a crisis was averted as the ship soon left the Chinese waters. The report added that the video has been trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo and has garnered over 50 million views in the first few days.

Though the Chinese state TV did not mention which country the warship belonged to, regional analysts have been reporting an increasing presence of US Navy vessels in the region.

Chinese fighter jet over the East China Sea
File image of a Chinese SU-27 fighter jet over the East China Sea, released by the Defense Ministry of Japan. Reuters/Defense Ministry of Japan