Pentagon Confirms Unsafe Chinese Aerial Encounter

Congress criticizes Beijing’s aerial harassment of RC-135

After initially refusing to provide details, the Pentagon on Tuesday confirmed that a Chinese jet made an unsafe pass near a U.S. RC-135 surveillance jet last week.

“I can confirm for you that the department’s reviewing a report that came in from [U.S. Pacific Command] regarding a Sept. 15 intercept of a U.S. RC-135 by an aircraft from the People’s Republic of China,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

The incident was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Cook said the RC-135 was flying some 80 miles east of the Shandong Peninsula over the Yellow Sea when the Chinese aircraft conducted an intercept that “was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 air crew.”

Asked to explain what was unsafe about the encounter, Cook said it was less dangerous than the August 2014 intercept between a Chinese J-11 interceptor and Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. During that intercept the Chinese pilot did a barrel roll over the top of the P-8.

“My understanding is, and I don’t have all the details, but the pilot believed that the plane passed in an unsafe fashion in front of the plane,” Cook said, noting that it was not similar to the earlier event.

In the House, Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea Power, also criticized China for the dangerous intercept.

“Even on the eve of their president’s visit to Washington, China is again behaving as a destabilizing force in the international system,” Forbes said.

“Despite the 2014 memorandum of understanding affirming China’s commitment to ensure the safety of military aircraft in the event of an unplanned encounter, Beijing continues to harass U.S. aircraft conducting lawful missions far from Chinese territory,” he added.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kansas), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, criticized the administration’s response to the incident.

“The persistent expansion of Chinese influence—whether the attacks are on our networks or our peaceful exercise of our rights to fly in international airspace—have been met with a consistent, ‘Hey, don’t do that again please,’” Pompeo said.

This will not stop Chinese aggression. The U.S. response must be quick, sure and forceful,” he said.

Full article: Pentagon Confirms Unsafe Chinese Aerial Encounter (Washington Free Beacon)

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