A Chinese fighter jet carried out an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. spy plane in international airspace over the East China Sea, two U.S. defense officials said on Tuesday.
The intercept involved a Chinese J-10 fighter plane and a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane, the officials said.
The officials, who requested anonymity, said the air crew deemed the encounter to be “unsafe” because of the “high rate of speed” at which the Chinese jet was traveling.
In May, the Pentagon said that two Chinese fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of a U.S. EP-3 aircraft over the South China Sea.
The Pentagon determined that the May incident violated an agreement the two governments signed last year.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would consider any Chinese establishment of an air defense zone over the South China Sea to be a “provocative and destabilizing act.”
U.S. officials have expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could prompt Beijing to declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013.
China has claimed most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.
Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands. Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased U.S. naval patrols and exercises in Asia.
During a conference in Singapore last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. approach to the Asia-Pacific remained “one of commitment, strength and inclusion”, but he warned China against provocative behavior in the South China Sea.