A US surveillance plane was forced to take evasive action after an 'unsafe' close intercept by two Chinese J-10 jets, according to US officials. Beijing said its pilots' actions were 'necessary and professional.'
One of the J-10 warplanes came within some 300 feet (91 meters) of the American EP-3 surveillance aircraft during the intercept west of the Korean peninsula, US officials told the news agency Reuters on Monday.
In a separate statement, US Navy spokesman Jeff Davis said that one of the Chinese jets approached from beneath the American plane, then slowed and pulled up, forcing the surveillance jet to change direction and evade it.
Davis added that the action was an "exception, not the norm."
"This is uncharacteristic of the normal safe behavior we see from the Chinese military," he said. "There are intercepts that occur in international airspace regularly, and the vast majority of them are conducted in a safe manner."
Another US official said that the Chinese jet was armed and that the interception happened 92 miles (148 km) from the Chinese city of Qingdao.
Beijing urges US to stop sending planes
China confirmed the intercept but defended its pilots, saying their actions were "legal, necessary and professional" and performed "in accordance with the law and the rules."
"Close-in reconnaissance by US aircraft threatens China's national security, harms Sino-US maritime and air military safety, endangers the personal safety of both sides' pilots and is the root cause of unexpected incidents," said the Chinese Defense Ministry.
Beijing also urged the US to immediately stop such activities, describing them as unsafe, unprofessional and unfriendly.
China deployed two Su-30 fighter jets in a similar incident in May, when it detected a WC-135 Constant Phoenix over the East China Sea. China declared an air defense identification zone over a large section of the East China Sea in 2013, a move the US called illegitimate and has refused to recognize.
dj/rt (Reuters, AP)