Tuesday, the United States Military said a Chinese fighter jet flew aggressively close to a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea and forced the American pilot to fly through the dangerous, turbulent wake.
A statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said a Chinese J-16 fighter pilot “flew directly in front of the RC-135,” which was conducting routine operations in international airspace on Friday. It said the Chinese move was an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver.”
U.S. defense leaders complain that China’s military has become increasingly more aggressive over the past five years and has intercepted American ships, aircraft, and the region. Tensions with China have only continued to grow in recent months over Washington’s continuing military support and sales of defensive weaponry to Taiwan against China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.
Proof of increasing tensions, China says its defense chief will not meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin when the two men attend a security conference in Singapore this coming weekend. Austin is set to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday, while Chinese Defense Minister General Li Shangfu will speak there Sunday.
Pentagon press secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder, said China informed the United States that it was declining Austin’s invitation to meet while they were attending the conference; he said Beijing’s “concerning unwillingness to engage in meaningful military-to-military discussions” won’t diminish the Department of Defense’s commitment to seek open lines of communication with the Chinese army.
Chinese foreign ministry blames the U.S.
Mao Ning, foreign ministry spokesperson, blamed the U.S. on Tuesday, 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 last summer to the Indo-Pacific, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. General Mark Milley, said the number of intercepts by Chinese ships and aircraft in the Pacific region with American and other partner forces has significantly increased over that time, along with unsafe interactions by similar proportions.
Frequently, China challenges military aircraft from the United States and its allies, particularly over the critical South China Sea. China claims the entirety of the sea. The communist country resents the U.S. presence in the area and frequently demands U.S. planes and ships leave the area. Such aggressive behavior led to a 2001 in-air collision in which a Chinese pilot was killed, and a plane was lost.
In a Tuesday statement, the United States Indo-Pacific Command said America will continue to “fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows” and continues to expect all other countries to do the same.