Pentagon: Chinese aircraft buzzes US Navy aircraft during ‘unsafe’ incident

A P-3C Orion assigned to the Jacksonville, Fla.-based "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, performs a fly-by during the 26th Sapporo Air Show. VP-8 is currently on a scheduled six-month deployment to Japan in support of U.S. 7th Fleet.

The Pentagon reports a Chinese military aircraft flew within an unsafe distance from a US Navy P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft on Wednesday.  At this time it is not clear if the flight path was intentional but officials say the aircraft was within 1,000 feet, a distanced identified as “unsafe.”

“Clearly, we have our disagreements with China over militarization of the South China Sea, over their reclamation of the islands and some of their broader strategic objectives, but when it comes to simply the interactions, those are largely professional and safe,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “This does seem to be a one-off. It doesn’t seem to indicate that it’s a change in their policy or strategy, and our immediate assessment is this was likely unintentional.”

The US Navy aircraft was forced to turn to avoid the People’s Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200 surveillance plane reckless flying over the South China Sea, according to the Washington Post.

KJ-200 surveillance plane
KJ-200 surveillance plane

“Look, these things do happen,” Davis said. “We have a lot of interaction with the Chinese. This is not in and of itself unusual that our planes or our aircraft or our ships encounter each other. Where we get concerned is when we see things that are unsafe or unprofessional, and when we do see those we raise them through our appropriate channels.”

An unnamed Chinese official defending the Chinese provocation by saying, the incident took place after two Chinese fighters had followed and monitored the U.S. plane “while maintaining a safe distance.”

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said diplomatic efforts should be exhausted to resolve disputes over the South China Sea.

“Our military stance should be one that reinforces our diplomats,” he said, adding “at this time we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all.”

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