A day after China confronted a US warship that came within 12 miles of one of China’s artificial reefs in the South China Sea,Reuters is reporting that Beijing decided to respond by sending two Chinese fighter jets to intercept a US military surveillance plane near Hong Kong, with one plane coming within 200 yards of the American aircraft.
A P-3 Orion surveillance plane was flying 150 miles (240 km) south east of Hong Kong when it was approached by two Chinese fighter jets. In the ensuing “unsafe intercept,” the Chinese aircraft came within 200 yards (182 meters) of the P-3 and one plane flew in front of the US aircraft, “restricting its ability to maneuver.”
If report is accurate, it means there were two near-confrontations between Chinese and American forces on the same day – a clear sign that, despite Trump’s turn toward friendly rhetoric in his dealings with the Chinese, tensions between the world’s two largest economies continues to rise.
The report follows a similar incident from last week, when two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets came within 150 feet of a U.S. Air Force WC-135 radiation detection plane while it was flying over the Yellow Sea in international airspace.
Responding to that incident, China’s Defense Ministry said the US account did “not accord with the facts” and urged Washington to stop its surveillance flights near Chinese borders. “The relevant action [of the Chinese pilots] was professional and safe,” the ministry said in a statement, quoted by Reuters. “We hope that the US side stops relevant surveillance activities, to avoid this kind of incident happening again.”
The US has a habit of flying its planes in the immediate vicinity of foreign nations. In the period 2014-2016, there were dozens of similar “unsafe” flybys flagged by the Pentagon involving Russian fighter jets, which however took plane not over the Gulf of Mexico, or Alaska, for example, but kilometers away from the Russian border. Perhaps the most surprising things to result from all these provocations is that nobody has gotten hurt, yet.