Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend, with one jet coming within about 300 feet (91 meters) of the American aircraft, Reuters reports, citing US officials.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close enough to the US EP-3 plane on Sunday to cause the American aircraft to change direction.
One of the officials said the Chinese jet was armed and that the interception happened 80 nautical miles (148 km) from the Chinese city of Qingdao.
The Pentagon said that the encounter between the aircraft was unsafe, but added that the vast majority of interactions were safe.
Incidents such as Sunday’s intercept are relatively common.
In May, two Chinese SU-30 aircraft intercepted a US aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international air space over the East China Sea.
China closely monitors any US military activity around its coastline.
In 2001, an intercept of a US spy plane by a Chinese fighter jet resulted in a collision that killed the Chinese pilot and forced the American plane to make an emergency landing at a base on Hainan.
The 24 US air crew members were held for 11 days until Washington apologized for the incident. That encounter soured U.S.-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W. Bush’s first term in office.
Separately, the Pentagon said the US military would soon carry out another test of it’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
“These tests are done as a routine measure to ensure that the system is ready and… they are scheduled well in advance of any other real world geopolitical events going on,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.
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