China Urges U.S. to Halt Close Air Surveillance After Encounter

China urged the U.S. to stop close reconnaissance after a Chinese fighter jet had an encounter with U.S. surveillance aircraft last week.

A U.S. navy P-3 anti-submarine plane and a P-8 patrol aircraft conducted a reconnaissance flight within 220 kilometers (137 miles) of Hainan Island and on Aug. 19, Yang Yujun, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

China sent a fighter to carry out routine identification and verification of the two U.S. planes, according to the statement. The fighter maintained a safe distance from the U.S. planes and the actions of its pilot were professional, China said.

U.S. and Chinese aircraft have had several close encounters over the sea since March, amid rising tensions over China’s territorial claims. The U.S. Navy deployed the Boeing Co. P-8, its newest surveillance aircraft, to the Pacific as part of a strategic shift to Asia.

In the Aug. 19 incident, the U.S. said the Chinese fighter flew within 20 feet of the surveillance aircraft and did a barrel roll over it, actions the White House called provocative. The Chinese J-11 fighter passed the P-8 Poseidon at 90 degrees, with its belly toward the U.S. aircraft to show off its weapons, according to a U.S. Defense Department statement.

China dismissed the U.S. accusation as “totally groundless,” in its statement. The large-scale and frequent air surveillance by the U.S. against China is the root cause of accidents that will endanger military security between the two countries, it said.

2001 Collision

The most serious encounter between a Chinese fighter and U.S. aircraft was an April 2001 collision with a Navy EP-3 surveillance plane. That caused the first diplomatic crisis of President George W. Bush’s administration after the U.S. aircraft made an emergency landing on Hainan Island.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea under a map first published in 1947. Its territorial claim extends hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island and takes in the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam, and the Spratly Islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines.