The US military plane is taking evasive maneuvers after the Chinese fighter jet passes within 10 feet, officials said.

HONG KONG — A Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US Air Force jet that was on routine operations over the contested South China Sea last week, the US military said Thursday, forcing the US aircraft to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

The incident reflects what the US is calling a worrying trend in unsafe interception practices by the Chinese military.

A US Air Force RC-135 was in international airspace Dec. 21 when it was intercepted by a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet, the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement. The Chinese aircraft positioned itself about 10 feet from the RC-135’s wing and then drifted within 20 feet of its nose while the US aircraft maintained its course and speed, forcing it to take evasive maneuvers.

“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” the command said.

A command spokesman said the US would respond through the appropriate channels.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that the US has long endangered China’s national security with its air and sea intelligence in the region and that Beijing will continue to take “necessary measures.”

“The provocative and dangerous actions of the United States are the root cause of maritime security problems,” he said at a regular briefing.

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and others. In recent years, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been increasingly assertive in the area, which is home to some of the busiest trade routes in the world.

At a regional defense summit in Singapore in June, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III stated that “the rise in unsafe air interceptions and naval engagements by PLA aircraft and ships is alarming.”

Australia said in May a Chinese fighter pilot intercepted one of its military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, releasing chaff that hit the plane’s engine.

The following month, Canada accused the Chinese military of causing Royal Canadian Air Force jets to deviate from their flight path during UN-approved operations to track North Korea’s sanctions evasion.

Such incidents raise fears of another fatal engagement, similar to the one in 2001, when China held 24 crew members of a US Navy spy plane for 10 days after it crashed with a Chinese fighter jet near the island province of Hainan. resulting in the death of the pilot.

Austin also raised the issue at a November meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. At that meeting, the two men agreed to improve U.S. and Chinese military communications that were suspended after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi angered China with her August visit to Taiwan, the self-governing island Beijing claims as its territory. China sees such visits as de facto recognition of Taiwan’s independence.

At a briefing on Thursday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tang Kefei said China attaches great importance to its military relationship with the United States and that working communication between the two militaries has not been interrupted.

“However, the US cannot seek a full resumption of dialogue and exchanges with China, constantly damaging China’s interests,” he said.

China has stepped up its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone since Pelosi’s visit, sending a record 71 military aircraft toward the island this week in one 24 hours after President Joe Biden signed into law a defense spending bill that boosted Taiwan’s military support. USA.

Separately, Japanese officials confirmed this week that China’s Liaoning carrier group has been rarely sighted near Guam, a US territory that has two military bases. The Global Times, a state-backed Chinese nationalist tabloid, said on Thursday that the move “showed that the Chinese carrier is prepared to defend the country from potential US attacks, including attempts at military intervention in the Taiwan question.”

In an email Friday, Deputy Communications Officer Lieutenant Christina Wiedemann said the US Navy’s 7th Fleet is closely monitoring all vessels in its area of ​​operations, including Guam, “to ensure security and stability in the region.”

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