US says Chinese interception could have caused mid-air collision

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. military says a Chinese fighter jet came dangerously close to an Air Force jet over the South China Sea, forcing the U.S. 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 « take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision ».

China frequently challenges the military aircraft of the United States and its allies, especially over the strategically vital South China Sea, which China claims in full. 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 above 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 to the latest US complaint from the PLA, the armed wing of China’s ruling Communist Party.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin offered no details, but accused the United States of posing « serious threats to China’s national security » with its surveillance operations.

« China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly defend its sovereignty and security, and work with regional countries to firmly uphold the peace and stability of the South China Sea, » Wang said at a briefing. daily press briefing on Friday.

Wang also renewed Beijing’s objections to US arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that Beijing threatens to bring under its control by force if necessary. Washington this week approved the sale of a $180 million anti-tank system to Taiwan as the threat from the Chinese military grows.

Although the US has no formal ties to Taiwan out of respect for Beijing, US law requires the island to have the means to defend itself. While Beijing has given Taiwan no deadline to accept its ultimatum, some US defense officials believe Chinese leader Xi Jinping has grown more eager to force a military solution in the coming years.

The United States « should stop arms sales and military contacts with Taiwan and stop creating new factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait, » Wang said.

« China will take strong measures to firmly defend its sovereignty and security interests, » he said.

The Associated Press


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