Chinese jets intercept U.S. surveillance plane

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea over the weekend, with one coming within about 300 feet of the American aircraft, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close to the U.S. EP-3 plane on Sunday, causing the American aircraft to change direction.

NAN reports that on July 7, the U.S. Air Force said that two bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea, asserting the right to treat the region as international territory in spite of China’s claims in the busy waterway.

“This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all our allies,” U.S. Air Force spokesman, Maj Ryan Simpson, said in a statement.

Simpson said two U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers flew from Guam over the South China Sea in June, while a U.S. warship carried out a maneuvering drill within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands in the waterway in May.

The flight from Guam had on Thursday come as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepare for a likely meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

The two leaders were expected to discuss what Beijing can do to rein in Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear weapons programmes.

The U.S. believes that North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday that put parts of the U.S. mainland within range of Pyongyang’s warheads for the first time.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, through which about five trillion dollars in ship-borne trade passes yearly, a stance contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing usually protests against freedom of navigation operations such as bomber flights.

The U.S. has criticised China’s build-up of military facilities in the South China Sea, concerned that they could be used to extend Beijing’s strategic reach.

The two Lancers that made the latest flight had earlier trained with Japanese jet fighters in the neighboring East China Sea, the first time the two forces had conducted joint night-time drills.

However, China opposed the use of freedom of overflight as an excuse to harm its security, the foreign ministry said, after two U.S bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea.

Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, made the comments at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Friday.