Beijing blamed US “provocation” Wednesday for an incident last week when a Chinese plane crossed in front of an American surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea.
“The United States’ long-term and frequent sending of ships and planes to conduct close surveillance on China seriously harms China’s national sovereignty and security,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said when asked about the incident.
“This kind of provocative, dangerous activity is the cause of the security issues on the seas,” Mao said, calling on Washington to “immediately stop this form of dangerous provocation.”
“China will continue to take all necessary steps to resolutely protect its own sovereignty and security,” she said.
The US military said Tuesday a Chinese fighter pilot performed an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” near an American surveillance aircraft operating over the South China Sea on Friday.
Video footage declassified and released by the US military shows a Chinese fighter plane crossing in front of the American aircraft, which can be seen shaking from the resulting turbulence.
The Chinese plane “flew directly in front of and within 400 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the US aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence,” the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said in a statement.
“The RC-135 was conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law,” it said.
The Pentagon said the incident was part of a pattern of behavior by China.
It comes at a time of frayed ties between Washington and Beijing over issues including Taiwan and an alleged Chinese spy balloon that was shot down after traversing the United States earlier this year.
Declassified video footage shows a fighter plane crossing in front of the American aircraft, which can be seen shaking from the resulting turbulence.
A senior US defense official said there has been an “alarming increase in the number of risky aerial intercepts and confrontations at sea” by Chinese aircraft and ships – actions that “have the potential to create an unsafe incident or miscalculation.”
“We don’t believe it’s done by pilots operating independently,” the official said. “We believe it’s part of a wider pattern.”