China is dismissing recent U.S. claims, saying that their military aircraft did not make a dangerous pass that risked a mid-air collision. The Chinese military instead is blaming U.S. surveillance for going too far and increasing the risk of dangerous aerial encounters.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, on Friday, U.S. Rear Admiral and Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that an armed Chinese jet made a dangerous pass against a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft three times. One pass below the aircraft, another pass in front of the aircraft’s nose and then parallel with the Poseidon’s wings, coming less than 30 feet (9 meters) away from a mid-air collision.
Chinese military spokesman, Yang Yujun says that those claims are ‘totally groundless’ and no such dangerous pass ever took place. Yang claimed the pilot maintained a safe distance at all times as it made regular checks on the American surveillance plane. Then the spokeman ripped into American policy saying in an official statement:
“The U.S. accusations against China are totally unfounded. It is large-scale, high-frequency close-proximity surveillance by the United States that endangers Chinese-U.S. maritime and aviation safety, and that is the root cause behind any accidents.”
The dangerous pass took place in international waters about 137 miles (220 kilometres) east of Hainan island according to the New York Times. Hainan island is located in the South China Sea, which has been a conflict point between China and its neighbors.
China has claimed a section of the sea that intersects with the territorial claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and others. The conflict in the region have resulted in a number of incidents including a collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese aircraft in 2001. In 2010, the U.S. maintained neutrality in the territorial issues but affirmed that it had a interest in “open access to Asia’s maritime commons.”
Although these kind of encounters are fairly commonplace, this most recent incident may have been more than just a dangerous stunt. The American pilot claimed that during the pass the Chinese pilot maneuvered his jet to show his plane’s weapon systems. A move that seemed overly provocative, especially considering recent progress in China-U.S. military relations.
Whether the dangerous pass will result in more accusations or simply be added to the growing list of incidents is not clear, but it serves as a reminder that the South China Sea will still be a conflict point for some time.
[Photo Credit: CNS]