The Chinese Defence Ministry on Sunday dismissed Washington’s account of an encounter between Chinese and US military aircraft over the South China Sea last week, blaming the US flight for posing a threat.
A statement by the ministry said a US surveillance plan was spotted in airspace southeast of Hong Kong on May 25, and Chinese military aircraft intercepted it in accordance with the law.
“The operation by the Chinese military aircraft was professional and safe,” the statement said. “Recently, the US has been sent military vessels and aircraft to China’s maritime and air space, infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty and posing a threat to the lives of people from both sides.
“Such operations [by the US] is the root of Sino-US military maritime and air safety incidents.”
US officials said the US Navy P-3 Orion was 240km southeast of Hong Kong in international airspace when two Chinese J-10 fighters carried out the “unsafe intercept”. One J-10 flew within 200m in front of the US plane, restricting its ability to manoeuvre, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Tensions in the South China Sea have eased in the past months, but have resurfaced in recent weeks. The US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Dewey last week sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China on Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in South China Sea, west of Palawan Island in the southwest Philippines.
In another move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was “strongly dissatisfied” with the mention of the East and South China Sea disputes in a Group of Seven statement, calling on the G7 allies to stop making “irresponsible remarks”.
In their communique on Saturday, leaders of the G7 (comprising the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom as well as the European Union) said they were concerned by the situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. They also called for a demilitarisation of “disputed features”.
China is committed to properly resolving disputes with all nations involved through negotiations while maintaining peace and stability in the East China Sea and South China Sea, ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement on Sunday.
China hopes the G7 and other nations would refrain from taking positions, fully respect the efforts of countries in the region in handling the disputes, and stop making irresponsible remarks, Lu said.
Beijing and Tokyo have a long-standing a dispute the uninhabited Diaoyu islets, which Japan controls and calls the Senkakus, in the East China Sea.
Beijing’s extensive claims to the South China Sea are also challenged in part by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
The US has criticised China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the South China Sea, concerned they could be used to restrict free navigation and broaden Beijing’s strategic reach.
Additional reporting by Reuters