Chinese fighter jet intercepts US Air Force aircraft within 20 feet, US Defense Department says

A Chinese fighter jet intercepted a US reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea last week, according to the US Department of Defense.

On 21 December, a People's Liberation Army (PLAN) fighter pilot flew in front of a US RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, forcing it to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision.

The Chinese jet flew 20ft within the nose of the RC-135, according to a statement released byIndo-Pacific Command – responsible for overseeing US military operations in the region.

Video of the incident it published shows the J-11 fighter drawing closer to the US Air Force jet, gliding alongside before the RC-135 descends to avoid a collision.

The US Indo-Pacific Command called the manoeuvre "unsafe".

The South China Sea is located between seven Asian countries and is rich with natural resources, spanning over one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Since 2013 China has been trying to claim large portions of the South China Sea, claiming it has historic rights to the islands in the region.

China’s maritime territorial claims have caused tensions between China and the surrounding nations.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said: "The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law."

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