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A Chinese fighter jet flew within 20 feet of a US military plane over the contested South China Sea, forcing it to take evasive action


A Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet flew within 20 feet of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft.A Chinese J-11 fighter jet alongside a US RC-135 over the South China Sea on December 21.

Screengrab/US Indo-Pacific Command

  • A Chinese J-11 fighter jet flew within 20 feet of a US military aircraft over the South China Sea.
  • US Indo-Pacific Command said the Chinese “flew an unsafe maneuver” during the December 21 encounter.
  • The US plane, an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, had to take evasive action, the command said.

A Chinese fighter jet recently flew within 20 feet of a US Air Force plane and forced it to take evasive actions to avoid a crash, US Indo-Pacific Command said on Thursday.

The command said in a statement that on December 21, an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft was “lawfully conducting routine operations” in international airspace over the South China Sea when a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy J-11 fighter jet intercepted the RC-135 and performed an “unsafe maneuver.”

The Chinese “pilot flew an unsafe maneuver by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the RC-135 to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” the command said.

A video of the incident released by the US military shows the Chinese J-11 jet flying alongside the RC-135.

US Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees US military operations in the region, said its forces are “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.”

“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” the command added.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Friday that US reconnaissance activity threatens China’s national security and claimed that the US was undertaking “provocative and dangerous moves” and “deflecting blame” on China.

China J-11 fighter jetA J-11 flying near a US Navy P-8 aircraft east of Hainan Island in August 2014.

REUTERS/US Navy

China has made sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, which are disputed by many of its neighbors, and has established military bases on reefs and artificial islands in the sea.

US officials also say China’s military is conducting more aggressive intercepts of US and allied forces. In June, Canada said Chinese pilots were performing risky intercepts of Canadian planes operating from Japan and Australia said a Chinese fighter jet cut in front of an Australian surveillance aircraft and released chaff that entered its engine.

Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in July that over the last five years the number of “unsafe” intercepts by Chinese jets had dramatically increased, including dozens of incidents just in 2022.

“This is really dangerous behavior that I would liken to driving with road rage in a school zone,” Ratner said of the intercepts during an event this month. “It is tempting a crisis that could have geopolitical and geoeconomic implications.”

Read the original article on Business Insider