Chinese jet buzzes US spy plane: Pattern of aggressiveness?

Last week, the Pentagon says a Chinese jet performed an 'unsafe' maneuver near a US aircraft. What does this say about China-US relations? 

(AP Photo/OSD)
This handout photo provided by the Office of the Defense Secretary (OSD), taken Aug. 19, 2014, shows a Chinese fighter jet that the Obama administration said Friday conducted a "dangerous intercept" of a U.S. Navy surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace.

A Chinese aircraft performed an unsafe maneuver during an air intercept of a U.S. spy plane last week, reported the Pentagon on Tuesday, the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Seattle.

The Department of Justice is now reviewing the report of the incident to determine if it was a deliberate move, though it doesn’t appear to have been provocative, reports Reuters.

Though allegedly unaware of the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, "China has consistently dedicated itself to maintaining maritime and air safety in accordance with international laws and norms, and to establishing mutual military trust with other countries to appropriately manage differences."

Though the intercept did not mirror the incident in August 2014 when a Chinese warplane barrel rolled over a US Navy patrol jet, Pentagon officials do suggest the incident shows China is continuing to assert its military reach.

“Yet another 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,” Senator John McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“That this flight came amid negotiations of rules for air-to-air encounters and just one week ahead of President Xi's arrival in the United States raises further questions about China's intentions and the Obama administration’s response thus far," the statement continued.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Xi insisted that China’s military action is “defensive in nature.”

"In strengthening our defense and military...we are not going after some kind of military adventure," Xi said. "It never crosses my mind."

But both countries have previously agitated the other in separate instances this year. Earlier this month, while President Obama visited Alaska, five Chinese Navy ships sailed just off the coast in the Bering Sea, reported The Washington Post.

And in May, “China’s navy issued warnings eight times as a US surveillance plane swooped over islands that Beijing has claimed over its neighbors' opposition,” reported CNN.

But as Xi told the Journal, “[China and the US] interests converge in a broad range of areas.”

“Together, China and the United States account for one-third of the world economy, one-fourth of the global population, and one-fifth of global trade,” he said. “If two big countries like ours do not cooperate with each other, just imagine what will happen to the world.”

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