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According to U.S. military sources, a Chinese fighter jet flew within 10 feet of a B-52 bomber. 2024-04-20 11:46:23

A Chinese fighter jet flew within 10 feet of a U.S. B-52 bomber flying over the South China Sea, narrowly avoiding a collision, according to the U.S. military, highlighting the risk of accidents as both countries vie for influence in the region.

During a nighttime intercept, a twin-engine Shenyang J-11 fighter aircraft approached the U.S. Air Force aircraft at an "unsafe excessive rate of closure, in excess of 10 feet, from B-52, putting both aircraft at risk of collision," the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement published late on Thursday.

"We are concerned that the pilot did not know how close he was to causing a collision," the military added.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but during a similar incident in May, the Chinese government rejected U.S. complaints and demanded that Washington halt such flights over the South China Sea.

China has been increasingly assertive in asserting its claims to much of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, a position rejected by the United States and other countries that use the vast expanse of ocean for navigation.

China's claims have led to long-standing territorial disputes with other nations in the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest trade routes. Last week, a Chinese coast guard ship and its accompanying vessel rammed a Philippine coast guard ship and a resupply vessel at a disputed shoal in the waterway.

Following that incident, U.S. President Joe Biden renewed a warning that the United States would be obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Philippine forces, aircraft, or vessels come under armed attack. He spoke at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the White House on Wednesday.

In response, China said that the United States had no right to interfere in Beijing's disputes with Manila.

The U.S. and its allies regularly conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, and also routinely fly aircraft over the region to assert that the waters and airspace are international.

According to U.S. military sources, the B-52 was "lawfully conducting routine operations in international airspace" when it was intercepted by the J-11.

Intercepts are common; the U.S. says there have been over 180 such incidents since the fall of 2021. However, they are not usually as close as Tuesday's incident, and given the high tension in U.S.-China relations, a collision could have escalated the situation.

The U.S. military stated in its release that the incident would not change its approach.

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