Chinese jets intercept US spy plane over South China Sea, Pentagon says

Two Chinese fighters have carried out an “unsafe”
intercept of a US military aircraft over the South China
Sea, the Pentagon says.
The incident happened in international airspace on 17 May
as the US maritime reconnaissance aircraft carried out a
routine patrol in the area, it added.
However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson denied
any “dangerous manoeuvres from Chinese aircraft”.
Several nations claim territory in the resource-rich South
China Sea.
Tensions in the region have increased recently, with China
and the US trading accusations over military activity.
The South China Sea dispute
‘Not true’
A military official quoted by the Associated Press news
agency said the US pilot was forced to descend about 200ft
(60m) to avoid a collision.
Later on Thursday, Hong Lei from the Chinese foreign
ministry responded to the US allegations saying they were
“not true”.
“The US plane flew close to Hainan Island. Two Chinese
aircraft followed and monitored at a safe distance. There
were no dangerous manoeuvres from the Chinese aircraft.
Their actions were completely professional and safe.”
The US defence department said it was addressing the issue
through military and diplomatic channels.
“Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC
actions, flying in a safe and professional manner,” the
statement added, using the initials for People’s Republic of
China.
Washington has accused Beijing of militarising the South
China Sea, which is also an important shipping route.
China in turn has criticised increased US naval patrols
and exercises in Asia.
What is the South China Sea dispute?
Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South
China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in
recent years.
Its islets and waters are claimed in part or in whole by
Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and
Brunei.
China has backed its expansive claims with island-building
and naval patrols, while the US says it opposes restrictions
on freedom of navigation and unlawful sovereignty claims –
by all sides.
The frictions have sparked concern that the area is
becoming a flashpoint with possible global consequences.

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