WASHINGTON: A US Navy P-3 plane and a Chinese military aircraft came close to each other over the disputed South China Sea. However, the incident has been described as an 'inadvertent' one by the US Navy.
The incident took place on Wednesday when the military planes came close to each other in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal which is situated between the Philippines and Chinese mainland. The two aircraft came within 1,000 feet (roughly 350 meters) of each other. This was revealed by an American official, who spoke to the media on the condition of anonymity and stated that the American plane was not violating international law.
"US plane was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," he said.
According to the US Pacific Command, "US plane was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law."
"On February 8, an interaction characterized by US Pacific Command as 'unsafe' occurred in international air space above the South China Sea, between a Chinese KJ-200 aircraft and a US Navy P-3C aircraft," it said.
As per the official who spoke on anonymity, such run-ins with the Chinese warplanes are infrequent and rare, with only two occurring in 2016.
The US Pacific Command said that it would take up the matter with the Chinese authorities via 'appropriate diplomatic and military channels'. It further said that it was concerned about such interactions with the Chinese military.
China's defense ministry also spoke about the incident and was blunt in reminding the US of the tense relations that existed between the two countries at present.
"We hope the US side keeps in mind the present condition of relations between the two countries and militaries, adopts practical measures, and eliminates the origin of air and sea mishaps between the two countries," a member of the Chinese defence ministry was quoted as saying.
The United States and China have had a diplomatic row over the latter's claim over the South China Sea. Trump has issued strong warnings to China and vowed to stop it from seizing territory that is not China's to begin with.