US Says Chinese Intercept Could Have Caused Collision

Fighter jet flew dangerously close to US plane over South China Sea, military says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2022 4:33 AM CST
US Says Chinese Intercept Could Have Caused Collision
A Chinese J-11 military fighter jet flies above the Taiwan Strait near Pingtan, the closest land of mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in southeastern China's Fujian Province on Aug. 5, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

The US military says a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to an Air Force plane over the South China Sea, forcing the American pilot to maneuver to avoid a collision. US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement Thursday that the incident occurred Dec. 21 when the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy J-11 flew in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of an RC-135, a type of large reconnaissance plane operated by the US Air Force, the AP reports. The US plane was "lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace," the statement said. Its pilot was forced to "take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision."

China frequently challenges military aircraft from the US and its allies, especially over the strategically vital South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety. Such behavior led to a 2001 in-air collision in which a Chinese plane was lost and pilot killed. "The US Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail, and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law," the statement said. "We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law."

The US and others have also accused China of harassing military aircraft and ships in the East China Sea off the Chinese coast and as far away as the Horn of Africa, where China operates a naval base. There was no immediate response to the latest US complaint from the PLA, the military wing of China's ruling Communist Party. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin offered no details, but accused the US of posing "serious threats to China’s national security" with its surveillance operations. Wang also said the US "should stop arms sales and military contact with Taiwan and stop creating new factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait." He added: "China will take strong measures to firmly defend its sovereignty and security interests."

(More China stories.)

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