Chinese fighter’s aggressive move risks collision with US aircraft

AP/U.S. Navy

An American surveillance aircraft encountered an “unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre” by a Chinese fighter pilot over the South China Sea last week, according to the US military. This incident, which the Pentagon claims is indicative of China’s pattern of behaviour, comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing over issues such as Taiwan and an alleged Chinese spy balloon shot down in the United States earlier this year.

The Chinese aircraft flew directly in front of and within 400 feet of the nose of the RC-135 on Friday, forcing the US aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence, said the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in a statement. The RC-135 was conducting safe and routine operations in international airspace over the South China Sea, in accordance with international law, the command added.

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 defence official stated that 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.” A similar incident involving a Chinese jet and a US RC-135 occurred in December, forcing the American plane “to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision,” according to INDOPACOM.

The announcement of the latest incident came a day after the Pentagon revealed that Beijing had declined a US invitation for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet his Chinese counterpart in Singapore later this week. However, the senior official stated that the timing of the announcement was unrelated to China’s refusal of the invitation, explaining that information about the aircraft incident “was subject to the US military declassification process and US diplomatic communication process.”

As part of efforts to counter increasingly assertive moves by Beijing, Austin and other US officials have been working to strengthen alliances and partnerships in Asia. However, there have also been tentative signs that the two sides were working to lower the temperature. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met in Vienna earlier this month, and President Joe Biden later said that ties between Washington and Beijing should thaw “very soon.”

World News

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Sara is a journalist and content writer who specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics. Sara's journey in journalism began as a copywriter, and over time, her portfolio expanded to include articles and features for some of the nation's top lifestyle publications. Outside the office, she enjoys practising yoga and exploring hidden locations in Bangkok.