A Chinese fighter jet brazenly endangered an American air crew by carrying out an unsafe intercept in international airspace over the East China Sea. The Chinese J-10 fighter jet intercepted an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane at unsafe speeds while flying at the same altitude as the American plane. Several American officials, and the air crew aboard the RC-135, claim that the intercept was dangerous and unnecessary.
At this time it is unclear whether the American RC-135 needed to take evasive action to avoid the Chinese J-10. The American RC-135 was conducting a routine mission in international airspace at the time of the incident and posed no threat to the Chinese government or it’s people.
This incident is one of many uncouth encounters between Chinese and American military in the China Sea. In May two Chinese fighter jets flew within 50 feet of an American EP-3 aircraft above the South China Sea. The Pentagon claims this incident violated an agreement signed by the two countries in 2015. Officials from both nations are growing weary of the increasingly common encounters between the two nation’s armed forces in the area.
Early this week John Kerry stated the U.S. would view any establishment of an air defense zone over the South China Sea as a proactive act aimed at destabilizing the area. At this time it is unclear whether or not this incident, which took place over the East China Sea, will be viewed as an act of establishing air defense zones in the area.
Chinese-American relations in the South China sea have become increasingly unstable in the past months. China has claimed a majority of the South China Sea and the lucrative trade passes contained within that area. Several other countries have overlapping claims including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. The U.S. government claims the Chinese government is attempting to militarize the area by building a series of artificial islands. The Chinese in turn are criticizing the U.S. Navy for conducting routine patrols and exercises in Asia.
It is believed that encounters, such as the unsafe intercept of the American RC-135 by the Chinese fighter jet, will become increasingly more common as disputes over the South China Sea continue.