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Tense moment: Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet of US bomber

A Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet of a US B-52 bomber over the South China Sea, nearly causing an accident, ABC News reports.

The US military says the fighter jet approached the bomber as it flew over the South China Sea, which could have triggered the mishap amid the two countries’ struggle for influence in the region.

On Thursday, the US Indo-Pacific Command said that during a night interception, a Shenyang J-11 twin-engine fighter jet had approached a US Air Force aircraft at an “uncontrollably high speed, flying below, in front of and within 10 feet of the B-52, putting both aircraft at risk of collision.” The military said:

 “We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision.”

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment on the incident, but in a similar incident in May, the Chinese government demanded that Washington stop such flights over the South China Sea and rejected US complaints.

China has been increasingly asserting its claim to most of the South China Sea as its territorial waters, a move not welcomed by the US and other countries that use the vast expanse of ocean for shipping.

China’s claims have led to long-running territorial disputes with other countries in the South China Sea, through which one of the world’s busiest trade routes passes. Last week, a Chinese coast guard ship and an accompanying vessel rammed a Philippine coast guard ship and a military supply vessel near a disputed shoal in this waterway.

The Philippines is the oldest US treaty ally in Asia. Joe Biden has again warned China that the US will stand in defence of the Philippines if Philippine troops, planes or ships come under armed attack. He said this at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the White House on Wednesday.

China responded by saying Washington has no authority to intervene in Beijing’s disputes with Manila. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Thursday in a news conference in Beijing:

“The US defence commitment to the Philippines should not undermine China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, nor should it support the illegal claims of the Philippines.”

The US and its allies use the South China Sea space for military exercises and regularly fly aircraft over that area to emphasise that the waters and airspace are international. The US military said Tuesday the B-52 was “lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace” when it was intercepted by a J-11 aircraft.

More than 180 such intercepts have been recorded since autumn 2021, according to US data. However, they are not often as close as Tuesday’s incident, and with tensions already high between Beijing and Washington, a collision could escalate tensions. The US military says the incident will not change its approach. The military said.

“The US will continue to fly, sail and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international laws allow.”

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