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China Intercepts US Aircraft Over Yellow Sea in Dangerous Maneuver

On September 15th, a Chinese military jet intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Yellow Sea, about 80 miles east of China’s northern Shandong Peninsula. The Chinese jet crossed the nose of the American plane, passing within 500 feet, a dangerous maneuver.

The US regularly conducts surveillance flights over international water along China’s coast, airspace that Beijing wrongly claims to be its own. As a result, there has been a series of Chinese intercepts of these flights.

“One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during this intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 air crew and at this point, right now, there’s no indication this was a near collision, but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook last week.

It’s not the first time. In April 2001, a Chinese jet pilot was killed after he clipped the wing of a Navy EP-3 over the South China Sea, off Hainan island. More recently, in August of last year, a Chinese jet executed a dangerous barrel roll, at close range, over another Navy plane, above the same body of water.

Until now, American administrations have sought to minimize these dangerous intercepts through quiet diplomacy with the People’s Liberation Army. “The department has made tremendous progress with respect to reducing risk between our operational forces and those of the People’s Republic of China,” said Commander Bill Urban, Pentagon spokesman, after the September 15th incident. “Over the past year, we have seen improvements in PRC behavior, specifically the safety and professionalism with which they intercept our aircraft.”

If China had indeed responded to America’s diplomacy, why then did Beijing choose to return to its aggressive behavior in the skies on the eve of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States?

“If China and the US cooperate well, they can become a bedrock of global stability,” Xi said in Seattle last week, in a keynote address just after his arrival. “Should they enter into conflict or confrontation, it would lead to disaster for both countries and the world at large.”

A conflict or confrontation? The Chinese military just deliberately created a confrontation. Are we to conclude China is opting for disaster, not peace?

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