The United States has voiced concern over Chinese intercepts of its military aircraft in the Pacific region, Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing remarks by the new commander of US air forces in the Pacific.
On Aug. 19, a Chinese fighter jet flew within six meters of a US P-8 Poseidon aircraft flying at about 650 kilometers an hour near southern China’s Hainan Island, an encounter that the Pentagon described as “unsafe and unprofessional”.
“I never say never,” Gen. Lori Robinson, 55, was quoted as saying when asked if talks between the two sides meant such behavior would cease. “What’s important is that we do start the dialogue and that we do come to an understanding of what a traditional intercept is.”
Robinson, who replaced Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle as commander of Pacific Air Forces on Oct. 16, said she hopes to discuss air safety when she meets Chinese military personnel at the Zhuhai air show in Guangdong and a training conference this month.
The air dispute between the two countries is centered on what activities are permitted within a country’s 200-mile (322-kilometer) offshore exclusive economic zone, where coastal states have sovereign rights over marine resources, according to the news agency.
The US says international law permits such flights, which have been a standard practice for decades, but China insists such freedom is reserved for civilian aircraft.
“What the US is doing is totally within their rights under international law, and the Chinese undermine their own arguments when they send their surveillance vessels into the US’s EEZ,” said Richard Bitzinger, coordinator of the military transformations program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
In July China sent a surveillance ship into the US EEZ off Hawaii, even as the country participated for the first time in the world’s largest international naval exercise led by the US, the report said.
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