MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese fighter jet early this week reportedly conducted a “dangerous intercept” of a US Navy spy plane, prompting the US to call the attention of Chinese diplomatic officials over what it believed to be “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior in the South China Sea.
The US defense department said in its web site that the reported incident took place on Tuesday, August 19, 135 miles off Hainan Island in the volatile South China Sea. US authorities stressed that their plane was flying in international airspace.
“The Chinese jet…passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon, we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load out,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters on Friday, August 22.
“They flew directly under and alongside the P-8, bringing their wingtips…to within 20 feet and then conducted a roll over the P-8, passing within 45 feet,” Kirby added.
It was believed to be just one of several passes made by the Chinese jet and got as close as 50 to 100 feet.
It was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon that is believed to have been photographed in March this year above a Filipino civilian vessel harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard. Its presence during China’s blockade offered a sense of protection to the Filipino soldiers and journalists on board the civilian vessel deployed for a rotation and resupply mission. (READ: US helped PH Navy in Ayungin mission)
Kirby said the Chinese jet’s behavior was risky and threatens the relationship between militaries of the 2 countries.
“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the aircrew, and was inconsistent with customary international law,” he said.
He added: “This kind of behavior, not only is unprofessional, it’s unsafe….It is certainly not keeping with the kind of military-to-military…relations that we’d like to have with China.”
In 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy spy plane – an EP-3 surveillance aircraft – that was also flying a routine mission in the South China Sea. The pilot of the Chinese jet was killed, and the rest of the crew held by Chinese authorities after they were forced to do an emergency landing on Hainan, but were eventually released. – Rappler.com