Chinese and U.S. aircraft in ‘unsafe’ close encounter

Washington D.C. [USA], Feb. 10 : There was an "unsafe" close encounter between a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft and a Chinese surveillance aircraft on Wednesday, according to two U.S. defense officials. One official said the Chinese plane was a People's Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200, reports the CNN. The two planes flew within 1,000 feet of each other in the general vicinity of the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

A spokesperson for US Pacific Command, which oversees U.S. troops in the region confirmed, the incident, calling it "unsafe". " The Department of Defense and US Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces.

We will address the issue in appropriate diplomatic and military channels," said Maj. Rob Shuford. A second official said that the American P-3 had to alter course to ensure that there wasn't an aerial collision.

While the Navy considers the encounter to be "unsafe," it does not assess that any malign intent was behind the incident, though the event was considered serious enough to be raised up the chain of command.

The official called encounters between US and Chinese aircraft like the one that took place Wednesday "extremely rare," noting that there were zero such incidents in 2015 and two in 2016.

It was the first such instance of 2017. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including islands more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland, despite objections from neighbors including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

Source: ANI