US-Chinese jets in close encounter over South China Sea

A Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close – within six meters of a much larger US Air Force surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea, the US military said on Thursday (local time).

A Chinese Navy J-11 fighter pilot “performed an unsafe maneuver during an interception of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft,” the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.

The Chinese pilot flew in front of and within twenty feet of the US plane’s nose on Dec. 21 and “forced the RC-135 to make evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” it said.

The RC-135 “lawfully conducted routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace,” the US command said.

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The incident came as China sent ever-larger groups of warplanes across the sea to Taiwan in a show of force, while Beijing reasserted its claim to sovereignty over the US-backed, self-governing island.

Last weekend, China flew 71 warplanes, including dozens of warplanes, in military drills around Taiwan, one of the largest such operations since Beijing began deploying military aircraft to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

The People’s Liberation Army said it held a “strike exercise” Sunday in response to unspecified “provocations” and “collusion” between the United States and Taiwan.

There have been more than 1,700 such raids so far this year, compared to 969 in 2021, according to an AFP database.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it recorded around 380 raids in 2020.

The United States has provided significant military aid and advanced technology to Taiwan to defend against a possible Chinese invasion.

Washington has also angered Beijing by refusing to accept its disputed claims to numerous small islands in the South China Sea, islands lying in waters claimed by other Southeast Asian countries.

Originally released as US, Chinese jets in close encounter over South China Sea

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