WASHINGTON (AA) – The Pentagon confirmed Friday that an armed Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. patrol aircraft in the South China Sea earlier this month.
According to Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft was on a routine mission Aug. 19 when it was intercepted about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace.
“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept,” said Kirby.
There has been a dispute in the South China Sea for decades and tensions increased late last year between the U.S. and China over the region when China declared an air defense identification zone on the disputed islands in the Pacific.
“It undermines efforts to continue developing military-to-military relations with the Chinese military,” Kirby said. “That’s unacceptable and unhelpful to the military relationship that we would like to have with them.”
Touching on the details of the encounter, he said that the aircraft passed within 30 feet of the P-8 which is “Very, very close. Very dangerous,” he noted.
The Chinese jet reportedly made several passes on three different occasions and crossed under the aircraft, with one pass just 50 to 100 feet in separation.
The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the American aircraft, which Kirby said was “to make a point of showing its weapons load out.”
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