A U.S. Navy plane recently flying over the South China Sea reportedly received an ominous radio warning from China before the country scrambled a jet to track the U.S. aircraft.
“No approaching any more or you will pay full responsibility,” a voice from a Chinese air force ground station told a U.S. Navy P-8 flying outside of Chinese airspace over the South China Sea, NBC News reported.
Shortly after, a Chinese fighter jet positioned itself about 500 feet from the left wing of the U.S. plane, which continued on its course, for an over an hour before peeling away.
U.S. military officials say that the encounters are becoming more frequent in the South China Sea as China attempts to position itself as the dominant force in the area and claims control over many of the largely uninhabited islands in the sea.
“Typically we don’t get a response, sometimes we’ll get nonverbal responses. But overall we’re trying to encourage a safe and professional encounter while we’re both operating in international airspace,” Capt. Will Toraason, the commander of U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft, told an NBC News reporter who was on the plane at the time.
“Since I’ve been in the Navy, going on 18, 19 years now, I can tell you there is a dramatic change over that span, specifically the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Marc Hines said, which is due in part to China building artificial islands and runways in the South China Sea in recent years.
The interaction between the two military superpowers comes weeks after tensions flared over a Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the United States for several days before being shot down by the United States off the coast of South Carolina.
In a “confrontational” meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi about two weeks later, Blinken told his counterpart the balloon incident “must never happen again.”
China has publicly criticized the United States over the incident calling the reaction to the balloon “hysterical” and that the decision to shoot it down was an “absurd” violation of international norms.