US defence officials have warned of an "alarming increase" in aggressive intercepts from Chinese military aircraft and vessels, following a close encounter between a Chinese fighter jet and a US military plane in international airspace over the South China Sea last week, Standard Media reported.
These "risky" intercepts have the "potential to create an unsafe incident or miscalculation," according to two US defence officials who discussed the incident under the condition of anonymity.
The US revealed video of a Chinese fighter pilot's "unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre" on May 26 during an intercept of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft on Tuesday, according to Standard Media.
The Chinese pilot "flew directly in front of and within 400 feet (122 metres) of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the US aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence," according to a representative for Indo-Pacific Command, which coordinates US military operations in the area.
Standard Media said that the spokesperson claimed the US plane was "conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law" when the intercept took place.
In a statement, Indo-PACOM (Pacific Command) urged all nations to use international airspace safely and in line with international law, adding that the US "will continue to fly, sail, and operate, safely and responsibly, wherever international law allows."
Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, accused the US of being responsible for the incident on Wednesday. She said that the aircraft was performing "close-in reconnaissance on China" and that this was "seriously threatening China's sovereignty and security."
"The US needs to immediately stop such dangerous acts of provocation," Mao said.
Beijing has disregarded the verdict made by an international court in The Hague that China has no historical claim to the South China Sea, according to Standard Media.
According to Standard Media, the US often conducts operations in and above the South China Sea to oppose territorial claims made by China and others and to support open access to international seas, which are used by half of the world's merchant fleet and carry trillions of dollars' worth of cargo each year.
Beijing has claimed every feature in the South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim certain islands in the sea as part of their territory.
The increased tensions between the US and China come as the Pentagon says Beijing has declined a request by the US for a meeting between their defense chiefs at an annual security forum in Singapore this weekend.
Both defense leaders are slated to attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, with US. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking on Saturday and his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister General Li Shangfu, scheduled to speak on Sunday. The annual dialogue is an informal gathering of defense officials and analysts in Singapore that also creates opportunities for side meetings among defense leaders, Standard Media reported.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said open lines of communication are important "to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict."
A senior defense official told VOA on Tuesday that since 2021, the PRC has declined or failed to respond to more than a dozen requests from the Department of Defense for key leader engagements, along with multiple requests for standing dialogues and nearly 10 working-level engagements, Standard Media reported.
"Frankly, it's just the latest in a litany of excuses," the senior defense official said.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson also confirmed the two defense leaders would not meet this week, saying Tuesday that the US should "earnestly respect China's sovereignty and security interests and concerns ... and create the necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication between the two militaries."
Li, who assumed his current post in March, has been under US sanctions since 2018 over the purchase of combat aircraft and equipment from Russia's main arms exporter, Rosoboronexport. (ANI)