A Chinese fighter jet came dangerously close to a US bomber over the South China Sea, the US military said, amid concerns about Beijing's growing aggression around the disputed waters.
A Chinese J-11 twin-engine fighter jet came within 10 feet of a U.S. B-52 fighter jet causing a near miss on Oct. 24, the U.S. military said in a statement.
The Chinese jet flew in front of and under the US bomber in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner” with an “uncontrollable overspeed” that put both aircraft at “risk of collision”, the military added.
“We are concerned that this pilot did not know how close he came to causing a crash.”
The incident comes at a time when the relationship between the world's two largest economies is strained over a range of issues including Taiwan, China's human rights record and its increased military activity in the South China Sea.
Beijing has claimed the entire sea as its own, denying the claims of other Southeast Asian countries and defying an international ruling. In order to assert its sovereignty, China continues to fortify islands in the disputed area.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded by placing the blame on the US, accusing it of flying the aircraft over the sea in an attempt to deliberately provoke.
“US military planes have traveled thousands of miles to China's doorstep to flex their muscles,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning. “This is the source of maritime and air security risks and does not contribute to regional peace and stability.”
The US military said the aircraft was “conducting legitimate routine operations” before Tuesday's incident, but did not immediately respond to questions about what exactly the B-52 was doing over the South China Sea.
After a similar incident in May, the Chinese government rejected US complaints and demanded that Washington halt such flights over the South China Sea.
Last week, a Chinese coast guard ship and escort vessel blocked a Philippine coast guard vessel and a military supply vessel from a disputed shoal in the waterway.
Following this incident, US President Joe Biden renewed a warning that the US would be obliged to defend the Philippines, its oldest ally in Asia, if Philippine forces, aircraft or ships come under armed attack.
China responded by saying the US had no right to interfere in Beijing's disputes with Manila.
Wiretapping is common, with the US saying there have been more than 180 such incidents since the fall of 2021, the Associated Press reported.