April 22, 2024

The interception of a United States Air Force reconnaissance jet by a Chinese fighter over the South China Sea last month should be seen as a potential warning of how easily, and quickly things can go terribly wrong – raising the risk of a deadly military confrontation between the two powers, analysts say.

The incident in question occurred on December 21 over the northern part of the South China Sea in what the US says was international airspace.

Performing what the US military deemed an “unsafe maneuver,” a Chinese navy J-11 fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the nose of a US RC-135 Rivet Joint, an unarmed reconnaissance plane with about 30 people on board, forcing the US plane to take “evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” according to a statement from the US Indo-Pacific Command issued on December 28.

It released a video of the incident showing the Chinese fighter flying to the left of and slightly above the four-engine US jet, similar to the Boeing 707 airliners of the 1960s and ’70s, and then gradually closing in on its nose before moving away.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command, in a report on China Military Online, had a different interpretation of the encounter, saying it was the US jet that “abruptly changed its flight attitude and forced the Chinese aircraft to the left.”

“Such a dangerous approaching maneuver seriously affected the flight safety of the Chinese military aircraft,” it said.

By , CNN

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