Chinese warplane intercepts US Navy plane over South China Sea

Washington (United States of America), February 27 (ANI): A Chinese J-11 fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles intercepted the US Navy reconnaissance jet over the South China Sea, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"American aircraft, this is the PLA air force. You are approaching Chinese airspace. Keep a safe distance or you will be intercepted," a Chinese military ground station broadcast to the P-8, using the abbreviation for the People’s Liberation Army," the Wall Street Journal reported.

Such types of encounters are not new over the South China Sea as Islands are the subject of overlapping territorial claims in part from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

A Chinese J-11 jet fighter, armed with four air-to-air missiles, appeared at the rear of an American P-8 patrol aircraft, passed above and settled a few hundred feet from the wing of the U.S. Navy plane, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Not only does the strategic waterway hold vast resources of fish, oil and gas, but about a third of global shipping passes through it — worth about USD 3.4 trillion in 2016, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) China Power Project.

The escalation between China and US happened when US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon after it passed over American airspace earlier this month.

An F-22A fighter of the US Air Force’s 1st Fighter Wing, taking off from Langley Air Force Base, splashed the high-flying balloon with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile after it had crossed the coast of South Carolina. The balloon was flying at between 60,000 and 65,000 feet.

China said it was a civilian meteorological balloon that blew off course.

Beijing has in turn accused the US. of spying on China, including by using patrol aircraft over the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the resource-rich maritime region, which is also an important trade route.

In December, the U.S. accused a Chinese jet fighter of flying within 20 feet of a US reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. Beijing said the US plane veered suddenly toward the jet. China hasn’t responded to U.S. calls for talks about unsafe military encounters.

China has built military bases on artificial islands in the waters and also conducts regular military exercises in much of the South China Sea and maintains a large presence of coast guard and fishing vessels in the disputed waters.

That puts it into a confrontation with other countries in the region that also have territorial claims and adds to U.S. concerns about trade routes and regional security.

Earlier this month, the Philippines said China’s coast guard used a military-grade laser against a Philippine coast guard ship in the South China SeaUS patrol aircraft flying over the South China Sea on most days to push back on China’s claims of control of the region, as well as to record images of the militarization of artificial islands. The Wall Street Journal flew on a P-8 patrol plane Friday as the crew used cameras, radar and other sensors to look at ships, aircraft and facilities on the islands.

The encounter between the P-8 and the Chinese jet fighter occurred a few dozen miles north of the Paracel Islands, claimed by both China and Vietnam. China has built military facilities on some of the islands.

China’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to questions about what territory it claims in the South China Sea or what it thinks about U.S. patrol flights.

After the December incident, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said: "The U.S. has frequently deployed aircraft and vessels for close-in reconnaissance on China, which poses a serious danger to China’s national security. The U.S.’s provocative and dangerous moves are the root cause of maritime security issues.""China will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely defend its sovereignty and security," the spokesman said.

The P-8 returned to its base in Okinawa, Japan, flying close to two Chinese naval destroyers, one north of the Philippines and another around 38 nautical miles off the eastern coast of Taiwan.

The aircraft is one of seven P-8 planes belonging to Patrol Squadron 10, which is based in Jacksonville, Fla., and currently on a six-month rotation in Japan. (ANI)