WASHINGTON – euters
A Chinese aircraft performed an unsafe maneuver during an air intercept of a U.S. spy plane last week, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday, an incident revealed just as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicks off a weeklong U.S. visit.
The intercept occurred on Sept. 15, about 80 miles (130 km) east of the Shandong Peninsula in the Yellow Sea and involved an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane, said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.
“The pilot reported that he felt . . . the (Chinese) aircraft passed in front of his nose in an unsafe fashion,” Cook said. “There’s no indication this was a near collision.”
The Department of Defense is reviewing the report of the incident, Cook said.
Cook said last week’s intercept was not similar to an incident in August 2014, when a Chinese warplane flew as close as 20 to 30 feet (7 to 10 meters) to a U.S. Navy patrol jet and conducted a barrel roll over the plane.
But it was the latest in a series of moves by China seen as an assertion of the expanding reach of its military. Earlier this month, five Chinese navy ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska as U.S. President Barack Obama toured the state.
Republican Sen. John McCain said in a statement on Tuesday that last week’s intercept was part of a “pattern of aggressive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region” by China.
“That this flight came amid negotiations of rules for air-to-air encounters and just one week ahead of President Xi’s arrival in the United States raises further questions about China’s intentions and the Obama administrations response thus far,” the statement said.
Xi’s visit will include meetings with U.S. business leaders, a black-tie state dinner at the White House, and an address at the United Nations. The visit comes as U.S.-China relations have been strained over a number of issues, including disputes in the South China Sea, cyberespionage by Chinese actors, and Chinese economic policies.
In 2001, a collision between a U.S. surveillance aircraft and a Chinese navy fighter off Hainan Island resulted in an international incident.