Two Chinese jet fighters came within 500 feet of a US surveillance plane in what the Pentagon describes as an “unsafe” interception.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Sept. 15 incident occurred over the Yellow Sea when two JH-7 Chinese fighters flew within 500 feet of the nose of a US RC-135 surveillance aircraft.
The US plane was conducting a routine patrol in international airspace about 80 miles off China’s Shandong peninsula, US military officials said.
US Pacific Command deemed the intercept “unsafe” and an investigation is under way at the Pentagon.
A military official said the incident was considered unsafe but that the dangerous intercept did not amount to a “near collision”.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The incident came as Chinese President Xi Jinping was preparing for a series of high-level meetings with President Barack Obama and others during a US visit.
It also follows the passage of a flotilla of Chinese warships through US territorial waters in the Bering Sea earlier in September.
Those ships navigated through waters making “innocent passage” in full compliance with international laws and conventions.
While unsafe air encounters are normally considered serious by the Pentagon, military officials said the incident did not alarm them since it appeared to be more of an exception than a trend.
The incident is the first dangerous intercept of a US plane by the Chinese military since 2014 when a rogue Chinese pilot began harassing American patrol planes over a period, culminating in a series of maneuvers around a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance jet.
The August 2014 incident included a so-called barrel-roll typically conducted by professional stunt pilots.
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