A video of the December 21 encounter shows a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet flying within 10 feet (3 meters) of a U.S. Air Force RC-135, a reconnaissance plane with about 30 people on board, the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), the command responsible for overseeing U.S. operations in the area, said in a statement.
According to a U.S. military spokesperson, the Chinese jet came within 10 feet of the airplane’s wing, but 20 feet from its nose, causing the U.S. aircraft to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.
“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” the statement said.
According to INDOPACOM, the RC-135 was in international airspace and was “lawfully conducting routine operations.” A U.S. official said that the U.S. government has raised the issue with the Chinese government.
China claims that large parts of the South China Sea fall into its territorial waters. However, many of these areas overlap with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The U.S. does not recognize these claims.
“The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,” the statement said.