Mistrust and confrontation in the East China Sea: Chinese jet conduct unprofessional intercept of a U.S. aircraft
New Zealand Star - Saturday 20th May, 2017
Two Chinese fighter jets buzzed a U.S. spy plane that sniffs out nuclear radiation earlier this week
The American plane involved was a WC-135 Constant Phoenix that collects samples to detect nuclear explosions
The U.S. Air Force said it was on a routine mission in international airspace
BEIJING, China - China’s growing mistrust and discomfort with American surveillance in the East China Sea became apparent this week after Chinese jets were accused of intercepting a U.S. aircraft in the region.
The U.S. military said in a statement on Friday that two Chinese Sukhoi Su-30 jets have conducted an "unprofessional" intercept of a U.S. aircraft.
U.S. officials have stated that one of the Chinese jets came as close as 150ft (45m) to the U.S. WC-135 Constant Phoenix plane and flew upside down above it.
America has argued that its plane, that collections samples to detect nuclear explosions, was on a mission to detect radiation in international airspace over the East China Sea.
Air Force spokesman Lt Col Lori Hodge said that the intercept took place on Wednesday and was deemed unprofessional "due to the manoeuvres by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft.”
She further added that the issue was "being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels", and a military investigation was under way.
The incident has displayed the rising tensions over U.S. activity near the resource-rich international waters off China's coast.
China did not comment on the incident, but has accused the U.S. of carrying out reconnaissance flights over Chinese coastal waters.
Beijing, that claims sovereignty over almost all of the disputed territory in the South and East China seas, also regularly calls on the U.S. to reduce patrols in the area.
Several other countries in the region too have competing claims in the South and East China seas.
China meanwhile has built islands in the region and conducts naval patrols in the disputed waters.
China's foreign ministry said that China and South East Asian countries have agreed a framework for a long-awaited code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea.
The code of conduct will now be submitted to the foreign ministers of the countries in August.
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