Second high-speed encounter within weeks takes place as Washington warns Beijing against setting up air defence zone over disputed Asia-Pacific waters
|A Chinese J-10 fighter made an ‘unsafe’ approach to an American surveillance plane, according to Pentagon officials. Photograph: China Photos/Getty Images|
The intercept involved a Chinese J-10 fighter plane and an RC-135 reconnaissance plane, the officials said on Tuesday.
The officials, who requested anonymity, said the air crew deemed the encounter to be “unsafe” because of the “high rate of speed” at which the Chinese jet was travelling.
In May the Pentagon said two Chinese fighter jets flew within 15 metres (50ft) of a US EP-3 aircraft over the South China Sea.
The Pentagon said the May incident violated an agreement the two governments signed in 2015.
Earlier this week the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said the US would view any Chinese establishment of an air defence zone over the South China Sea as a “provocative and destabilising act”.
US officials have expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could prompt Beijing to declare an air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013.
China has claimed most of the South China Sea, through which US$5tn (£3.5tn) in trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.
Washington has accused Beijing of militarising the South China Sea by creating artificial islands. Beijing in turn has criticised increased US naval patrols and exercises in Asia.
During a conference in Singapore last week the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, said the US approach to the Asia-Pacific remained “one of commitment, strength and inclusion” but he warned China against provocative behaviour in the South China Sea.