Two Chinese warplanes have forced a U.S. Navy maritime patrol airplane to descend a couple hundred feet to avoid collision on Tuesday, May 17, the Pentagon said.
The J-11 jets performed “unsafe” maneuvers to intercept a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying over the contested South China Sea.
The incident is the latest in a series of confrontations between the U.S. and China over the South China Sea issue which was caused by China’s construction, and subsequent militarization, of artificial reefs in the region.
U.S. Navy destroyers have so far performed three ‘Freedom of Navigation’ operations in the disputed area. According to the U.S., these operations are carried out to challenge attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigational rights around the features they claim.
The latest sail-by was performed by USS William P. Lawrence close to the Fiery Cross Reef. Previously, USS Lassen and USS Curtis Wilbur conducted similar operations. USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 miles of Zhongjian Dao, which is part of Chinese-claimed Xisha Islands, while USS Lassen sailed within 12 miles of Zhubi Reef of the Nansha Islands, in the Spratly Islands territory.
Other parts of the world are also not without incidents for the U.S. Navy as Russian jets recently flew within meters of a U.S. warship in the Baltic Sea. The incident was caught on video by sailors aboard USS Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke -class destroyer who was, at the time, sailing in international waters of the Baltic Sea.