Chinese Fighters Intercept US Spy Plane Days After South China Sea Spat

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. surveillance plane Wednesday in an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter, according to U.S. officials.

A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance plane was stopped in international waters 150 miles southeast of Hong Kong, Reuters reports. One of the Chinese jets flew in front of the U.S. aircraft, negatively impacting its ability to maneuver.

The Pentagon is reviewing the incident and plans to convey its concerns to the Chinese government through relevant channels.

The intercept follows two other unpleasant military encounters between U.S. and Chinese forces: a freedom of navigation operation in the contested South China Sea, and an intercept in the Yellow Sea.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands Wednesday, U.S. officials told CNN. “We firmly opposed to the U.S. behavior of showing force and boosting regional militarization,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Thursday.

“We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” Pentagon Spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis explained to reporters, “We operate in accordance with international law. We fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.”

Two Chinese Su-30 fighters came within 150 feet of a U.S. WC-135 radiation detection plane flying over the Yellow Sea last Wednesday, U.S. officials revealed to CNN. One of the planes flew upside down above the American aircraft.

American officials declared the close call “unprofessional” behavior on the part of the Chinese.

The Trump administration has been working closely with Beijing to address the growing North Korean nuclear threat, but old rivalries continue to complicate the relationship, as well as bilateral cooperation on the Korean Peninsula. President Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Chinese President Xi Jinping, pushing for the development of a positive U.S.-China relationship, but outstanding conflicts are still destabilizing relations.

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