WASHINGTON, Dec 29 – A Chinese warplane came within 10 feet (3 meters) of a U.S. Air Force jet in the disputed South China Sea last week, forcing it to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision in international airspace. The US military announced it on Thursday.
The close encounter followed what the United States called a recent trend of increasingly dangerous behavior by Chinese military aircraft.
The incident, which involved a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet and a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft, took place on December 21, the US military said in a statement.
“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” it added.
A US military spokesman said the Chinese jet came within 10 feet of the plane’s wing but 20 feet of its nose, causing the US plane to take evasive maneuvers.
The United States has raised the issue with the Chinese government, a separate US official said.
Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the past, China has said that it is not good for the United States to send ships and planes to the South China Sea for peace.
US military aircraft and ships routinely conduct surveillance operations and travel through the region.
China claims large areas of the South China Sea that overlap with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Trillions of dollars in trade flow through the waterway, which also contains rich fishing grounds and gas deposits.
In a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in November, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted the need to improve crisis communications and also noted what he called dangerous behavior by Chinese military aircraft.
Despite tensions between the United States and China, US military officials have long sought to keep open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to mitigate the risk of potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.
Australia’s Defense Department said in June that a Chinese fighter jet had dangerously intercepted an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea region in May.
Australia said a Chinese jet flew close to the RAAF plane and released a “bundle of chaff” containing small pieces of aluminum that were ingested into the Australian plane’s engine.
In June, Canada’s military accused Chinese warplanes of harassing its patrol planes as it monitored North Korea’s sanctions evasion, sometimes forcing Canadian planes to deviate from their flight paths.
Relations between China and the United States have been strained, with friction between the world’s two largest economies over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to military activity in the South China Sea.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in August angered China, which saw it as an attempt by the US to interfere in its internal affairs. China subsequently began military exercises near the island.
The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.