The Pentagon has called a maneuver in which a Chinese fighter jet swooped across the path of an American spy plane over the South China Sea ‘unprofessional’ and ‘unnecessarily aggressive’.
A pilot of the Chinese J-16 flew roughly 400 feet in front of the nose of the manned RC-135, ‘forcing the US aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence,’ defense officials said.
US officials released footage that showed the harrowing moment when the Chinese jet came into the path of the US aircraft.
But Chinese military leaders hit back at the American characterization and said the US spy plane ‘deliberately intruded’ into its training area.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters at a briefing that China would keep taking measures it deems necessary to safeguard its sovereignty. ‘The US should immediately stop these dangerous provocations,’ she said.
A pilot of the Chinese J-16 flew roughly 400 feet in front of the nose of the manned RC-135, US defense officials said
The maneuver created turbulence for the US aircraft which was captured in video from the cockpit
The maneuver came as this month Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a trip to the Indo-Pacific region to meet with regional defense leaders. He is pictured in Japan during the visit
Those advocating for heightened US military support of Ukraine have claimed showing support sends an important to send a message to China over its threats to Taiwan.
Video of the US-China encounter on May 26 shows the Chinese jet approaching from the right before gently pulling across and into the path of the USAF reconnaissance plane.
‘The US Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,’ read a statement accompanying the video.
‘We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.’
The incident adds to military, diplomatic and economic tensions between the countries over US support for self-governing Taiwan.
China says it owns the South China Sea virtually in its entirety, a claim not recognized internationally and directly challenged by nations along its coast including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning (pictured in October 2022) told reporters that China would keep taking measures it deems necessary to safeguard its sovereignty
The most recent maneuver came as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a trip to the Indo-Pacific region to meet with regional defense leaders.
Yet, on Monday, the Pentagon said China had rejected a request for Austin to meet with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu during a conference in Singapore.
China has also refused to engage in dialogue between US and Chinese armed forces over the flying of spy balloons over the American continent.
Austin is scheduled to address the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday and Shangfu will speak at the gathering on Sunday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the plane incident showed why it is vital for the US and China to maintain dialogue at a senior level in order to prevent miscommunication and avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict.
He said it was ‘regrettable’ that Beijing had rejected Austin’s request for a meeting with the Chinese defense minister.
‘I think it only underscores why it is so important that we have regular, open lines of communication, including by the way between our defense ministers,’ Blinken said at a news conference at the end of an EU-US trade and technology meeting in Lulea, Sweden.
‘As we’ve said repeatedly, while we have a real competition with China, we also want to make sure that doesn’t veer into conflict and the most important starting point for that are regular lines of communication,’ he said.
On Monday the Pentagon said China had rejected a request for Austin to meet with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu (pictured) during a conference in Singapore
The incident adds to military, diplomatic and economic tensions between the countries over US support for self-governing Taiwan. Pictured is Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 19
China has said the US is entirely responsible for the breakdown in communications, but has not publicly given a reason.
China frequently challenges military aircraft from the US and its allies in the South and East China Seas, as well as the Taiwan Strait connecting the two.
Such behavior led in 2001 to an in-air collision between a Chinese fighter and US Navy surveillance plane in which the Chinese plane was lost and pilot killed.
Late last year, the US said a Chinese plane flew within 20 feet of an American aircraft over the South China Sea, according to the New York Times.
In February, teh Chinese military ordered a US plane away from its airspace and flew a jet within 500 feet of the American aircraft, according to Fox News.
In Tuesday’s statement, the Indo-Pacific Command said America will continue to ‘fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows,’ and expects all other countries to do the same.