Chinese and US jets tangle over South China Sea


A Chinese fighter jet performed ‘an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver’ near an American jet, the U.S. said.

Chinese and US jets tangle over South China Sea

In this screen grab from video released by the U.S. military, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet carries out a maneuver that the U.S. military said was “unnecessarily aggressive” near an American reconnaissance plane flying above contested waters in the South China Sea, May 26, 2023.

A Chinese J-16 fighter jet last week carried out “an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” near an American reconnaissance plane that was flying above the South China Sea, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

The incident, which occurred Friday, follows a near collision of Chinese and American jets late last year over the same contested waters. 

A video released by the U.S. military shows the Chinese fighter jet approaching the American plane at a high altitude before turning sharply, veering away suddenly and disappearing in the distance. The cockpit of the American plane appears to shudder as the Chinese jet passes.

The pilot of the Chinese jet “flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence,” the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement, vowing to continue flying above the waters Beijing claims as sovereign territory.

“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows, and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,” it said. “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”

Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea despite a 2016 ruling in a case brought by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that rejected China’s expansive claims. 

Besides Beijing and Manila, overlapping parts of the sea are claimed by Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

The United States is officially neutral in the dispute but rejects China’s vast claim and has called for sovereignty claims to be resolved peacefully. U.S. forces also frequently carry out “freedom of navigation” operations through international waters in the sea, which includes shipping lanes in the South China Sea through which more than $5 trillion of goods pass each year. 

RFA has sought comment from the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

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