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US Says Chinese Fighter Jet Conducted ‘Unnecessarily Aggressive Maneuver’ Near US Reconnaissance Plane

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The U.S. military says a Chinese fighter jet flew close to one of its reconnaissance aircraft during a patrol mission over the South China Sea last week.   

A statement by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command says a Chinese J-16 fighter jet “flew directly in front of the nose” of the RC-135 plane “in an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver,” forcing the pilot to fly through the turbulence caused by the fighter jet. 

Video footage of the incident from the cockpit of the U.S. reconnaissance plane showed the plane shaking soon after the Chinese fighter jet flew across its flight path. 

The statement said the RC-135 reconnaissance plane was conducting “safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law.” 

Last week’s incident occurred six months after a similar incident in December, when the crew of another RC-135 plane was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with a Chinese fighter jet.  

The incidents come during a time of rising tensions between Beijing and Washington over a host of issues, including China’s aggressive expansion across the South China Sea and its increasing military and diplomatic pressure on self-ruled Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province of China.  Along with the aerial reconnaissance missions, the U.S. has also sailed its naval warships through the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait under the concept of “freedom of navigation.” 

The Pentagon said that China has rejected an invitation for Defense Minister General Li Shangfu to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security summit in Singapore this week. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.