A Chinese fighter jet recently intercepted an American spy plane, the US military said Tuesday.
The jet flew right in front of the US aircraft's nose, forcing it to fly through rough turbulence.
US officials have warned that this behavior could cause a major incident in the Western Pacific.
A Chinese fighter pilot recently performed an "unnecessarily aggressive maneuver" of a US military reconnaissance plane, US Indo-Pacific Command said on Tuesday. It's the latest incident of what Pentagon officials warn could lead to a major escalation.
The command said in a statement that a RC-135 aircraft was carrying out "safe and routine operations" in international airspace over the South China Sea on May 26 when a Chinese J-16 jet intercepted the American plane and cut in front of its nose, forcing it to fly directly through turbulence caused by the jet's wake.
A video captured from the RC-135's cockpit shows the Chinese fighter jet streak across the sky just ahead of the aircraft before it hits the turbulence. The cockpit then shakes around, and the jet disappears toward the horizon.
"The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows, and the US Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law," said the command, which oversees America's military operations in the region.
"We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law," the statement continued.
Chinese aircraft have carried out several unsafe maneuvers around US and allied planes over the past year, and Pentagon officials have warned that China's increasingly aggressive behavior around the South China Sea — where Beijing has made disputed territorial claims and militarized artificial islands — could eventually trigger a major incident or accident in the region.
For example, a Chinese J-11 fighter jet in December flew within 20 feet of an American RC-135, forcing it to take evasive actions to avoid crashing. Before that, both Australia and Canada had accused Chinese pilots of cutting in front of surveillance planes and making risky intercepts of aircraft.
China's foreign ministry has previously blamed some incidents on the US, accusing Washington of "provocative and dangerous moves" and claiming that US reconnaissance threatens Beijing's national security.
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