U.S. expresses 'strong concern' over Chinese jet intercept

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) -- The United States has expressed strong concern to China after a Chinese fighter jet conducted a "dangerous intercept" of an American patrol aircraft over waters off China earlier this week, the Pentagon said.

The incident happened on Tuesday in international airspace about 135 miles east of the southern Chinese island of Hainan, said the Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby. "An armed Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft" on a routine mission, he said.

The Chinese jet came within 30 feet of the U.S. aircraft at one point, he said.

"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 air crew and was inconsistent with customary international law," Kirby said.

"Also, it undermines -- and we've made this clear, that it undermines efforts to continue developing military-to-military relations with the Chinese military," he said. "So that's where we are now."

Kirby said the situation was "very close, very dangerous."

He said the Chinese jet made several passes, including one in which it passed the nose of the U.S. aircraft "at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon" in an apparent attempt to "make a point of showing its weapons load out."

The White House also said the intercept was a "deeply concerning provocation."

"What we've encouraged is constructive military-to-military ties with China, and this kind of action clearly violates the spirit of that engagement," Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters.

On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E signals reconnaissance aircraft collided with a Chinese J-8 fighter jet about 70 miles from Hainan, causing the death of the Chinese pilot. The EP-3 was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan, where the 24 crew members were detained and interrogated for 11 days.

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