The tensions along the South China Sea are mounting, especially with the presence of the U.S. military who had vowed to help U.S. allies such as the Philippines to protect in their interests in the wake of progressing territorial disputes.
The Chinese had intercepted a U.S. military spy plane following another incident involving the U.S. conducting a “freedom of navigation” patrol in the area. In response, the Department of Defense said it views the contact as “unsafe.”
According to Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michellle Baldanza, a U.S. military reconnaissance plane was flying over the South China Sea on Tuesday on a routine patrol of the international airspace when suddenly two tactical aircraft from the People’s Republic of China” had intercepted the U.S. Navy’s E-P3.
The Chinese fighter jets were said to have been J-11’s, according to a report from NBC News. Meanwhile, Baldanza says that initial reports indicate that the encounter was “unsafe” as the jets flew about 50 feet from the U.S. Navy aircraft.
Recently, the Pentagon has also pointed out that China is on a continued path of enhancing and increasing its military and weaponry operations.
Moreover, according to its annual report regarding the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015, China has been known to used “low intensity coercion” in order to advance its interests when it comes to territorial disputes. Among the tools it readily employs are the Chinese Coast Guard, PLA Navy ships and the Chinese commercial fishing fleet.
Both China’s official statements and state media tend to portray its country as simply “reacting to threats” or responding to provocations. Moreover, the report added that the country “often uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed territories and avoid escalation to military conflict.”
As for the recent incident, it is currently under investigation by the U.S. Pacific Command. The U.S. has managed to document what happened with photos but they are classified.