U.S. official said that a spy plane flying near the eastern coast of China was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets and had been forced to change course.
According to officials, the incident took place on Sunday.
One of the Chinese jets flew under the EP-3 and popped up 300 feet (90 meters) in front of the US plane, causing the crew “to take evasive action to avoid collision,” according to one official.
The US Navy described the flight as “a routine mission operating in accordance with international law” up until the “interaction” between the spy plane and the Chinese interceptors.
“While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the US aircrew characterized the intercept as unsafe,” said Lieutenant-Commander Matt Knight, Pacific Fleet spokesman. “The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels.
The incident comes at a time of increased tensions between the U.S. and China over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. Earlier this months, China accused the U.S. of violating its sovereignty and international law after a US missile destroyer sailed some 30 kilometers from the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing responded by sending warplanes and military vessels to intercept the ship.
U.S. officials accused China of ‘unsafe intercept’, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China “resolutely opposes”provocations carried out in the name of exercising this freedom that are designed to “flaunt military force and harm China’s sovereignty and security.”