Two Chinese fighter jets have intercepted an American military plane over the East China Sea, the US Air Force reported as breaking news.
According to a report from IBT, the U.S. military declined to describe this dangerous encounter with their Chinese counterparts as “unsafe.”
Nonetheless, the aircraft crew reportedly called the action “unprofessional.”
The US aircraft, a WC-135 Constant Phoenix, was conducting a “routine mission” in international airspace on May 17 when it was intercepted by two Chinese Sukhoi SU-30 fighter aircraft, the Air Force said in a statement.
The WC-135 is a so-called “sniffer plane” designed to scan the atmosphere for signs of nuclear activity.
“The WC-135 was operating in accordance with international law. While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the US aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional,” said the Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said.
The United States was addressing the issue with China through “appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing that she had no information about the incident, and the country’s ministry of defense did not respond to AFP’s request for comment.
Mid-air interceptions occur routinely in international airspace, but the US military will often call out foreign pilots if it judges the maneuvers to be risky or unprofessional.
According to Hodge, the description of the incident was based on initial reports from the U.S. aircraft crew “due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircrafts.”
“Distances always have a bearing on how we characterize interactions,” Hodge said.
An investigation into the incident has been launched by the U.S. military.