The US on Tuesday accused China of orchestrating a “concerted” campaign of dangerous and provocative air force maneuvers against US military planes in international airspace, saying that such moves could spark inadvertent conflict between the two powers.
The Pentagon said aggressive tactics by Chinese aircraft threatened US planes flying over the East and South China seas, tallying more than 180 such incidents since the fall of 2021 — “more in the past two years than in the decade before that,” US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said.
“That’s nearly 200 cases where [Chinese] operators have ... discharged chaff or shot off flares or approached too rapidly or close to US aircraft,” Ratner told a news conference.
“This type of operational behavior can cause accidents, and dangerous accidents can lead to inadvertent conflict,” Ratner said, adding that the incident count, tallied since the fall of 2021, increases to nearly 300 when US allies are included.
Ratner said there was an intentional campaign by Beijing “to perform these risky behaviors in order to coerce a change in lawful US operational activity.”
“The United States will not be deterred, or coerced. We will continue to fly, sail and operate safely and responsibly, wherever international law allows,” he said.
In one instance, a Chinese fighter plane “approached our asset at a speed of hundreds of miles per hour, clearly armed and closing to just 30 feet [9m] away,” and stayed there for more than 15 minutes, Ratner said.
Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea and the US are to conduct a joint aerial drill this weekend involving a US nuclear-weapons-capable B-52 bomber, media reports said.
The trilateral exercise on Sunday would be the first of its kind conducted near the Korean Peninsula, an unnamed military source told Yonhap news agency.
A South Korean Ministry of Defense official declined to confirm the reports, but said that the three countries were expanding joint exercises “to counter missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.”
“The South Korea-US-Japan joint aerial exercise will consist of a formation flight with the US strategic bomber B-52 escorted by fighter jets of the three countries,” a source told Yonhap.
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