US says Chinese interception could have caused mid-air collision

BEIJING: The US military claims that a chinese navy fighter jet flew dangerously close to a Aviation reconnaissance aircraft above South China Sea earlier this month, forcing the American pilot to maneuver to avoid a collision.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement Thursday that the incident occurred on Dec. 21 when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy J-11 flew ahead and within 6 meters (20 feet) from the nose of an RC-135, a type of large reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force.
The US aircraft “was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace,” the statement said. Its pilot was forced to “do evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision”, he said.
China frequently challenges military aircraft from the United States and its allies, especially over the South China Sea, which China fully claims. Such behavior led to a mid-air collision in 2001 in which a Chinese plane was lost and its pilot killed.
“The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, navigate and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard to the safety of all ships and aircraft in under international law,” the statement read.
“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” he said.
China deeply resents the presence of US military assets in the South China Sea and regularly demands that its ships and planes leave the region. The United States claims it has full rights to operate in and over the South China Sea and ignores Chinese demands.
Such dangerous incidents persist despite US-China agreements on how to handle unexpected encounters.
The United States and others have also accused China of harassing military planes and ships in the East China Sea off China’s coast and as far as the Horn of Africa, where China operates a naval base. .
There was no immediate response from the PLA, the armed wing of China’s ruling Communist Party, to the latest US complaint.


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