The United States has protested to China about a recent near-miss incident of military aircraft, U.S. officials said Friday, alleging a Chinese fighter intercepted a U.S. patrol plane and came within 10 meters of it over the South China Sea.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, described the interception as "a deeply concerning provocation" and told reporters the U.S. government conveyed its "objection" to such maneuvering of military aircraft in international airspace.
The action "clearly violates" the spirit of forging constructive military-to-military ties between the two countries, the White House official said.
According to Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary of the Defense Department, an armed Chinese fighter conducted an interception of a P-8 antisubmarine patrol airplane of the U.S. Navy on Tuesday in international airspace nearly 220 kilometers east of the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
The U.S. plane was "on a routine mission" and the Chinese fighter made several passes around the U.S. plane showing its weapons, Kirby told reporters separately.
The U.S. officials did not mention the model of the Chinese fighter but The Washington Free Beacon news website identified it as the SU-27, quoting a Pentagon official.
The Japanese government protested to the Chinese government in connection with similar near-miss incidents involving the SU-27 over the East China Sea in May and June in which Tokyo said the aircraft were flying unusually close to airplanes of the Japanese Maritime and Air self-defense forces.
The U.S. military deployed the P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, southern Japan, in December last year.