A People’s Republic of China (PRC) fighter pilot maneuvered aggressively around a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft on Friday, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) said in a press release on Tuesday.
USINDOPACOM released video of the incident and said the PRC pilot “flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence.”
“The RC-135 was conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law,” USINDOPACOM continued.
“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows, and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,” it added. “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”
A senior U.S. defense official said the Biden administration believes the incident is part of a coordinated harassment campaign organized by Chinese leadership.
“We don’t believe it’s done by pilots operating independently,” the official said, according to ABC News. “We believe it’s part of a wider pattern we see in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and elsewhere.”
The move comes after Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro revealed the Navy was one of the victims of a cyberattack conducted by a Chinese government hacking group that was discovered earlier this year by Microsoft.
According to CNBC, Del Toro said the Navy “has been impacted” by the cyberattacks that Microsoft said also involved installing a malicious computer code in telecommunications systems in Guam and other U.S. locations.
Del Toro noted it was “no surprise that China has been behaving in this manner, not just for the last couple years, but for decades.”
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.