While most of the headlines recently have been about the rising tensions between nations in the South China Sea (all who claim a set of islands and lagoons in the region), an incident between the United States and China has occurred in the other China Sea – the East China Sea, that is.
The U.S. Pacific Command has said that a Chinese fighter jet carried out an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. spy plane on a routine patrol in international airspace over the East China Sea Tuesday.
The intercept, which involved two Chinese J-10 fighter planes and an U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane, was instigated by the U.S. ignoring China’s continued demands to end U.S. surveillance flights.
“One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft. Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement. The report did not include details of just how close the Chinese fighter jet came to the U.S. plane.
China’s Defense Ministry acknowledged the event, dismissively saying it had “noted the report and is looking into it.”
In a response statement to Reuters news agency regarding the incident, the ministry took the opportunity to largely criticize the U.S.
“Judging by the report, the U.S. is again deliberately hyping up the issue of the close surveillance of China by U.S. military aircraft,” it said.
“Chinese military pilots consistently carry out operations in accordance with the law and the rules, and are professional and responsible,” it added, consciously choosing not to elaborate further.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that such patrols seriously harmed China’s security, and repeated a demand they stop, the news agency reported.
In a daily news briefing, Hong announced “China has the right to take defensive measures,” though he did not identify the site of the intercept.
Hong’s disdain for the U.S. on this matter was palpable. Upon asking him if the incident had been timed to coincide with the imminent high-profile Sino-U.S. dialogues in Beijing – which in attendance includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – Hong snidely replied, “Ask the Americans.”