New Delhi: The United States on Tuesday said that a Chinese J-16 fighter jet flew dangerously close to its spy plane over the South China Sea, making the American pilot fly through the turbulent wake. According to the US Indo-Pacific Command, the Chinese J-16 fighter pilot ‘flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135’, which was conducting routine operations in international airspace last Friday. In an official statement, the US military said that the Chinese move was ‘unnecessarily aggressive maneuver’.
US defense leaders have said that China’s military has become much more aggressive in the past five years, confronting US aircraft and ships in the region. The situation with China has worsened in recent months because of the US’s military aid and arms sales to Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and its flying of a possible spy balloon over the US.
Taking to Twitter, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command shared a video of the incident in which the Chinese fighter jet can be seen passing dangerously close to the American aircraft.
In a further sign of the tensions, China said its defense chief will not meet with US. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin when the two men attend a security conference in Singapore this coming weekend. Austin is scheduled to address the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday, while Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu will speak at the gathering on Sunday.:
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Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said China informed the US that it was declining Austin’s invitation to meet while they were at the conference. He said Beijing’s “concerning unwillingness to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions” will not diminish the Defense Department’s commitment to seeking open lines of communication with the Chinese army.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Tuesday blamed the US, saying Washington should “earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and security interests and concerns, immediately correct the wrongdoing, show sincerity, and create the necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication between the two militaries”.
In a visit to the Indo-Pacific last summer, US Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the number of intercepts by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific region with US and other partner forces has increased significantly over that time, and the number of unsafe interactions has risen by similar proportions
China frequently challenges military aircraft from the US and its allies, especially over the strategically vital South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety. Such behaviour led to a 2001 in-air collision in which a Chinese plane was lost and pilot killed. Beijing deeply resents the presence of US military assets in that region, and regularly demands that American ships and planes leave the area.
In the statement Tuesday, the US Indo-Pacific Command said America will continue to “fly, sail, and operate” safely and responsibly “wherever international law allows,” and expects all other countries to do the same.
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