A Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet of a U.S. bomber in a nighttime intercept over the South China Sea on Oct. 24, putting both aircraft “in danger of collision,” the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said.
INDOPACOM said the pilot of a Shenyang J-11 “flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” and “demonstrated poor airmanship by closing with uncontrolled excessive speed” near the U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber.
“We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision,” the U.S. military said in a statement.
Footage released by INDOPACOM shows the Chinese J-11 fighter flying in close proximity, within 10 feet of the B-52 bomber that was “lawfully conducting routine operations” over the South China Sea.
The Chinese aircraft intercepted the U.S. Air Force bomber at night when there was limited visibility and “in a manner contrary to international air safety rules and norms,” according to INDOPACOM.
Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said there have been over 180 instances of Chinese aircraft engaging in “coercive and risky operational behavior” since the fall of 2021.
In those cases, Chinese aircraft conducted “reckless maneuvers, discharged chaff, shot off flares, approached too rapidly or too close to U.S. aircraft” in attempts to interfere with the ability of U.S. forces to operate in places where international law allows, Mr. Ratner said.
“And when you take into account cases of coercive and risky PLA [People’s Liberation Army] intercepts against other states, the number increases to nearly 300 cases against U.S., allied, and partner aircraft over the last two years,” he told reporters on Oct. 26.
In one instance on May 26, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet “flew directly in front of the nose” of a U.S. RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through the Chinese plane’s wake turbulence, according to the Pentagon’s Oct. 17 report.
In another case on July 12, a Chinese fighter jet conducted a “coercive and risky intercept” against a U.S. aircraft in the East China Sea, including by deploying eight flares at a distance of 900 feet from the U.S. aircraft.
“The bottom line is that, in many cases, this type of operational behavior can cause accidents, and dangerous accidents can lead to inadvertent conflict,” Mr. Ratner said.
Mr. Ratner said these incidents occurred at a time when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has declined U.S. invitations to open lines of military-to-military communication at the senior-most levels.
Admiral John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said he had not spoken to his Chinese counterparts for two and half years despite his repeated requests for communication.
“I have yet to have one of those requests accepted, and I look forward to speaking to my counterpart. I think developing that relationship would be critical to maintaining the peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Tensions Between China and Philippines
The latest Chinese aircraft intercept occurred as President Joe Biden reaffirmed the U.S. defense commitment to the Philippines following collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.
“I want to be very clear: The United States’ defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad,” he said at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Oct. 25.
“Any attack on the Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines,” he added, referring to a treaty signed between the United States and the Philippines in 1951.
The collisions occurred on Oct. 22, when a Philippine boat—which was attempting to deliver supplies to troops stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal—had its path blocked by a Chinese Coast Guard ship.
A Philippine Coast Guard vessel escorting the boat was also “bumped” by a Chinese maritime militia ship during the same operation to deliver supplies, according to the Philippines’ National Task Force.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters that the United States is “not a party to the South China Sea issue” and “has no right to interfere in the issue between China and the Philippines.”
“The U.S. defense commitment to the Philippines should not undermine China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, nor should it support the illegal claims of the Philippines,” she said.
Beijing claims over nearly all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands that overlap with the Exclusive Economic Zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The Philippines’ position was recognized by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a 2016 ruling. However, the Hague Tribunal’s ruling didn’t change Beijing’s behavior, with Chinese vessels repeatedly intruding into the Philippines’ maritime zones.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times