Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend, with one jet coming within about 91 meters of the American aircraft, US officials said on Monday.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close to the US EP-3 plane on Sunday, causing the American aircraft to change direction.
One of the officials said the Chinese jet was armed and that the interception happened 80 nautical 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 is deeply suspicious of 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 US-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W. Bush’s first term on office.