China seems to be continuing its practice of “buzzing” Western aircraft as a new incident with a U.S. plane has come to light.
According to the United States Indo-Pacific Command, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet performed an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” near the U.S. Air Force’s RC-135 aircraft on May 26 by flying directly in front of the nose of the aircraft, “forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence.”
The incident was caught on video and the cockpit can be seen shaking following the encounter.
The incident occurred over the South China Sea in international airspace while the aircraft was conducting “safe and routine operations,” the U.S. said in a statement released Tuesday.
“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows,” the statement read. “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”
The recent maneuver, which is known as “buzzing,” is not the first incident reported from Chinese aircraft by Western allies.
Global News reported nearly a year ago that roughly 60 such incidents have occurred between Chinese and Canadian aircraft since Christmas 2021, with over two dozen of those incidents deemed dangerous.
Sources said that China had come as close as 20 feet to a Canadian aircraft — so close that Canadian pilots could make eye contact with the Chinese pilots, who sometimes raised their middle fingers.
The incidents occurred over international waters as Canada was conducting Operation NEON, a UN mission to ensure sanctions on North Korea were being followed. Canada continues to carry out the operation, most recently deploying a CP-140 Aurora aircraft to Japan in April, which finished its duty in mid-May. There are currently no Canadian planes deployed near the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the reports of buzzing Canadian aircraft “irresponsible and provocative.”
Chinese fighter planes also intercepted an Australian aircraft in the South China Sea region in May 2022 and a Chinese military plane came within 10 feet of a U.S. aircraft in December, forcing it to take evasive maneuvers.
In response to the latest incident, the spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, told Reuters that the U.S. had for a long time “frequently deployed aircraft and vessels for close-in reconnaissance on China, which poses a serious danger to China’s national security.”
“China urges the U.S. to stop such dangerous provocations, and stop deflecting blame on China,” Liu said in an email to Reuters.
He added that China would “continue to take necessary measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty and security, and work with regional countries to firmly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
China has claims to almost all of the South China Sea, and has said that the U.S. sending ships and aircraft there is not good for peace.
The recent incident took place before China snubbed a request by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit in Singapore this week.
China has declined or not responded to over a dozen requests to talk to the Pentagon since 2021, a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. The official said such talks are important to avoid misunderstandings and unintended consequences.
— with files from Reuters, Mercedes Stephenson and Sean Boynton.