US protests 'unprofessional' intercept by Chinese jets | SunStar

US protests 'unprofessional' intercept by Chinese jets

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US protests 'unprofessional' intercept by Chinese jets

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter (right) flies along with an H-6K bomber as they take part in a drill near the East China Sea on Sept. 25. (AP File)

BEIJING -- A pair of Chinese fighter jets conducted an "unprofessional" intercept of an American radiation sniffing surveillance plane over the East China Sea, the US Air Force said Friday, the latest in a series of such incidents that have raised US concerns in an already tense region.

The incident occurred Wednesday when a pair of Chinese SU-30 jets approached a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft conducting a routine mission in international airspace in accordance with international law, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said in a statement.

The WC-135 crew characterized the intercept as unprofessional "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft," Hodge said.

She declined to provide further details and said the issue would be addressed with China through "appropriate diplomatic and military channels."

"We would rather discuss it privately with China," Hodge said in an email to The Associated Press. "This will allow us to continue building confidence with our Chinese counterparts on expected maneuvering to avoid mishaps."

China declared an air defense identification zone over a large section of the East China Sea in 2013, a move the US called illegitimate and has refused to recognize.

China has demanded foreign aircraft operating within the zone declare their intentions and follow Chinese instructions. It wasn't clear where the incident happened or whether it was within the self-declared Chinese zone.

Unexpected and unsafe intercepts involving US and Chinese military aircraft have occurred occasionally over the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety. Although China says it respects freedom of navigation in the strategically vital area, it objects to US military activities, especially the collection of signals intelligence by US craft operating near the coast of its southern island province of Hainan, home to several military installations.

In recent years, the sides have signed a pair of agreements aimed at preventing such encounters from sparking an international crisis, as happened in April 2001 when a Chinese jet fighter collided with a US surveillance plane over the South China Sea, leading to the death of the Chinese pilot and China's detention of the 24 US crew members for 10 days. (AP)

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