A Chinese military aircraft performed an “unsafe” maneuver while intercepting a U.S. spy plane last week, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday. The incident was revealed the same day that China’s President Xi Jinping touched down in the United States for a weeklong and potentially pivotal visit, according to Reuters.
The Chinese jet apparently passed in front of an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane that was flying above the Yellow Sea about 80 miles east of the Shandong Peninsula on Sept. 15. While the maneuver was not considered provocative, the U.S. Defense Department is still reviewing the report of the incident, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday.
"One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during this intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 air crew, and at this point, right now, there's no indication this was a near collision,” he said, according to CNN. “But the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion.”
Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Tuesday the “dangerous Chinese intercept of a U.S. aircraft last week shows that China feels emboldened to continue its pattern of aggressive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to CNN.
Earlier this month, five Chinese navy ships sailed in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska as U.S. President Barack Obama visited the state. In August 2014, an armed Chinese warplane came within 20 to 30 feet of a U.S. Navy patrol jet and barrel-rolled over the plane, showing its weapons load.
Although last week’s intercept wasn’t the first time China has flexed its military muscles, the timing of the incident ahead of the Chinese president’s visit “raises further questions about China’s intentions and the Obama administration's response thus far,” McCain said, according to Reuters.