The US military has accused a Chinese fighter jet of making an “unsafe intercept” of a US B-52 bomber that was flying over the South China Sea on October 24.
US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the Chinese jet came within 10 feet of the American bomber. “We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision,” the command said.
According to AP, the US military did not answer questions about what the B-52 was doing flying over the sensitive waters but framed the flight as a “routine operation.” It’s also unclear how close the bomber was to mainland China. China did not confirm the details of the US account of the incident but said it blames tensions in the region on the US.
“The US military aircraft, which traveled halfway around the world to China’s doorsteps to show off military muscle, is exactly the source of maritime and air security risks and dangers to regional peace and stability. China will take resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning.
The US frequently flies surveillance planes over the South China Sea, but bomber flights are more rare and more provocative toward Beijing. According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), US surveillance planes flew about 1,000 sorties over the South China Sea in 2022. The Chinese think tank also tracked 20 flights of B-52 and B-1B bombers in the western Pacific region that year. Of that number, at least five US bombers entered the South China Sea in 2022.