Pentagon says Beijing’s jets involved in "insecure" operation. US aircraft dropped to a bare 60 meters above the ground to avoid collision. The incident occurred on May 17 in international airspace, during US patrol operations. Exchanges of accusations between China and the United States over their military activities in the area.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Two Chinese military aviation aircraft have intercepted a US spy plane, flying over the South China Sea. According to the Pentagon, the incident occurred in international airspace on May 17 last, while the US Marine reconnaissance jet was carrying out a routine patrol operation in the area.
The clash is a further confirmation of the growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region, with Beijing and Washington trading accusations over each other’s military activities in the area.
Several nations have conflicting interests in the area believed to be rich in natural gas and oil.
According to reports from a US military, the US jet intercepted by the Chinese aircraft was forced to descend in altitude up to 60 meters from the ground, to avoid a collision.
In further confirmation of escalating tension, last week a Chinese military plane has locked its targets on a US Navy ship, which was sailing near a disputed atoll. In 2014 a Chinese fighter intercepted an American spy plane, performing aerobatic maneuvers around the craft. Hence the choice of the USA and China, last year, to sign a series of agreements providing for rules of conduct in the skies.
According to the US government, Beijing is "militarizing" the South China Sea, a key route for all civil and commercial navigation. In response, the Chinese point the finger at the United States for the "growing" number of maritime exercises and the number of patrol boats in the area.
The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas.
For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational".