Chinese jets intercept US surveillance plane

WASHINGTON • Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a United States Navy surveillance plane over the South China Sea last Wednesday, with one coming within 180m of the American aircraft.

Initial reports showed that the P-3 Orion surveillance plane was 240km south-east of Hong Kong and in international airspace when the Chinese aircraft carried out the intercept, said US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One Chinese aircraft flew in front of the American plane, restricting its ability to manoeuvre.

The Pentagon confirmed that two Chinese jets carried out the "unsafe and unprofessional" intercept. Spokesman Gary Ross said: "We continue to review the facts of this incident and will convey our concerns through appropriate channels with the Chinese government."

A US Navy warship sailed within 22km of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials said last Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since US President Donald Trump took office.

China is deeply suspicious of any US military activity around its coastline, especially in the resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by China and its smaller neighbours, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese jets intercept US surveillance plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe