Published On: Wed, Oct 18th, 2023
World | By MDN

US accuses China’s Air Force of ‘risky’ behaviour in skies above Pacific | Military News

US accuses China’s Air Force of ‘risky’ behaviour in skies above Pacific | Military News
US accuses China’s Air Force of ‘risky’ behaviour in skies above Pacific | Military News

Releasing images and video footage capturing over 180 instances of Chinese interceptions within the past two years, the Pentagon issues a warning regarding the risks associated with such incidents.

The United States has made public a collection of photos and videos depicting more than 180 occasions where Chinese aircraft intercepted US fighter jets in the skies above the western Pacific over the last two years. This number surpasses the total reported in the previous decade.The Pentagon unveiled these images and videos on Tuesday as a prelude to its forthcoming annual China Military Power Report.

Addressing the press at the Pentagon, Ely Ratner, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, highlighted a notable surge in coercive and risky operational activities in the East and South China seas. This referred to the aerial interactions between China’s People’s Liberation Army and the US Air Force.

Ratner specifically mentioned a January 2023 incident in which a Chinese fighter jet approached a US aircraft at “hundreds of miles per hour” while both were in international airspace over the South China Sea. He revealed that the Chinese jet maintained a mere 30 feet (9 meters) distance from the US plane for over 15 minutes.

This incident occurred shortly after the US Indo-Pacific Command accused a Chinese fighter jet of executing an “unsafe” maneuver during an interception of a US Air Force RC-135 surveillance plane over the hotly disputed South China Sea.

While officials refrained from categorizing most of these flights as “unsafe” on Tuesday, reserving that label for only the most severe cases, they acknowledged that these flights are part of a broader pattern of regional intimidation by China, which could inadvertently lead to conflict.

A Chinese fighter jet as seen from a US military aircraft, with the cockpit crew clearly visible.
The Pentagon released videos and photos of more than 180 intercepts by Chinese aircraft, with one such incident occurring in June 2022 [Department of Defense via AP Photo]

Ratner emphasized, “All of these examples we’ve released today underscore China’s coercive intent by engaging in these behaviors, particularly in international airspace.” He added, “The bottom line is that in many cases, this type of operational behavior can result in active and dangerous incidents,” potentially leading to inadvertent conflicts.

The US announcement comes shortly after Canada reported that a Chinese fighter jet approached within 5 meters (16 feet) of a Canadian military aircraft over international waters near North Korea.

Canada’s Defence Minister, Bill Blair, characterized these actions as “dangerous and reckless.”

In response, China accused Canada of an “illegal intrusion into the airspace of Chiwei Yu, an affiliated island of China’s Diaoyu Dao.” These disputed islands are controlled by Japan, where they are known as the Senkaku Islands.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Mao Ning, stated, “The Canadian side sent warplanes halfway around the world to stir up trouble and provoke China at its doorstep. The Chinese side responded in accordance with laws and regulations. The Canadian side should respect the facts and refrain from spreading disinformation.”

Despite focusing on preparing for a potential conflict with China over Taiwan and providing support to Ukraine and Israel, the US maintains that it possesses the necessary resources to deter China.

Admiral John Acquilino, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, assured during the briefing that no equipment or force structures had been removed from his command, referring to ships, aircraft, and military units. He emphasized ongoing efforts to strengthen the US commitment to the region and enhance deterrence capabilities.

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