Unsafe Interaction: A Chinese Fighter Jet and U.S. Military Plane Encounter in June


News by AUN News correspondent

Thursday, July 14, 2022

AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

You have probably heard in the news recently about the unsafe encounter between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. military plane over the South China Sea. Tensions have been building in the region for years, but this latest incident ratcheted up the rhetoric between the two superpowers. According to the Pentagon, a Chinese J-10 fighter jet flew within just 6 feet of a U.S. EP-3 surveillance plane in international airspace, forcing the U.S. pilot to make a quick turn to avoid a collision. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command called it an unsafe intercept and said the Chinese pilot was flying unsafely and unprofessionally. Not surprisingly, China had a different take, accusing the U.S. of hyping up the encounter and claiming the Chinese pilot acted professionally. Regardless of who was at fault, the world watched and waited to see how the leaders of both countries would respond to yet another flashpoint in an increasingly complex geopolitical rivalry.

Details of the Close-Call Encounter

The close encounter happened in late June, when a Chinese J-10 fighter jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the East China Sea.

  • According to the U.S. military, the Chinese jet came within 20 feet of the wingtip of the RC-135 and conducted a barrel roll manoeuvre over top of it. This risky move by the Chinese pilot could have easily led to a midair collision.
  • The RC-135 was on a routine mission, conducting surveillance over the waters east of China. The U.S. crew had to take evasive action to avoid a crash quickly. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command called the encounter unsafe and irresponsible.
  • Tensions have been rising in recent years between the U.S. and China over the disputed South China Sea. Close encounters like this increase the chance of conflict due to a miscalculation or misunderstanding. The U.S. has conducted freedom of navigation operations in the region to challenge China’s claims to control almost all of the strategic waterways.
  • U.S. officials warn that unsafe intercepts like this endanger the lives of aircrews and undermine stability in the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said irresponsible behaviour jeopardises peace and stability. ” The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed it was conducting normal activities to defend national sovereignty and security.

With tensions escalating, encounters like this dangerously close call serve to increase the possibility of a deadly accident or miscalculation, leading to open conflict between the U.S. and China. Diplomacy and clear rules of engagement are urgently needed to prevent future unsafe incidents. The stakes are too high for these types of provocative actions.

Reactions From the U.S. And Chinese Militaries

This dangerous encounter in international airspace obviously ruffled some feathers. According to reports, the U.S. military deemed the Chinese fighter jet’s actions “unsafe and unprofessional.” The Pentagon said the Chinese pilot flew in front of and around the nose of the U.S. plane, restricting its ability to manoeuvre.

  • The U.S. military sees this as China flexing its muscles to assert dominance. Tensions have been building as China seeks to expand its military presence. The U.S. has vowed to continue flying and operating wherever international law allows, including the South China Sea.

China’s defence ministry claimed it dispatched the fighter jet to identify the U.S. plane and drive it away after it entered a restricted air zone. China accused the U.S. of frequently sending planes and ships to conduct surveillance on Chinese coastlines, describing the encounters as provocative acts undermining China’s security.

  • There seem to be conflicting accounts of this encounter’s location and sequence of events. While the U.S. military insists its plane was flying in international airspace, China claims it intruded on a restricted zone. As military powers, the U.S. and China both value the principle of freedom of navigation. At the same time, China aims to assert control over areas it considers strategic. These opposing perspectives clearly set the stage for clashes.

The U.S.-China relationship is complex, with elements of cooperation and competition. Communication and crisis management mechanisms are crucial to preventing miscalculation and escalation. As China expands its presence on the global stage, more such encounters may occur. The key is balancing defending sovereign interests with respect for international law. With open channels of communication, the U.S. and China can work to curb tensions even when their forces come into close proximity.

Increase in Risky Behaviour by China’s Air Force

Aggressive Interceptions

China’s air force has recently engaged in increasingly aggressive behaviour, including unsafe intercepts of U.S. military aircraft. The June 2021 encounter where a Chinese J-10 fighter jet flew within 6 metres of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane is just the latest in a string of reckless actions by China.

These risky aerial stunts demonstrate a disregard for safety and international norms. Intercepting aircraft at high speeds in close proximity drastically increases the chances of a collision. China seems intent on flexing its military muscle to intimidate the U.S. and its allies, even at the expense of basic caution and diplomacy.

Pattern of Provocation

China’s air force has had a history of hazardous interceptions over the past decade. In 2014, a Chinese fighter jet did a barrel roll over the top of a U.S. Navy patrol plane. In 2016, Chinese jets flew within 100 feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135. These manoeuvres require split-second timing and threaten all crew members’ lives.

China is clearly using these threatening aerial tactics as a way to assert dominance and project an image of power on the global stage. However, these shows of force undermine China’s credibility and relationships with other nations. Recklessly endangering aircraft and personnel will only lead to further distrust and instability.

Need for Restraint

For the safety of all, China must exercise restraint and caution in its military operations. All nations have a shared interest in avoiding aerial collisions and maintaining open lines of communication. China should follow standard international procedures for intercepting foreign military aircraft to reduce tensions and build trust. Diplomacy and levelheadedness, not displays of force, are the paths to productive foreign relations. Both sides would benefit from open discussions on rules of engagement and norms for operating in close proximity.

Compromise and understanding, rather than provocation, are the keys to resolving differences. China’s air force has an opportunity to reverse course, easing geopolitical frictions and ensuring the safety of aircrews worldwide. The choice is clear: continue escalating risky behaviour or work to build cooperation. For global security, the latter is the only reasonable option.

Ongoing Tensions Between the U.S. And China

Rising Tensions

The U.S. and China have a complex and strained relationship as the world’s two largest economies. Ongoing tensions over trade, technology, human rights, and military power fuel distrust and competitiveness between the nations.

The recent dangerous encounter between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. military plane highlights the tensions and possibility of miscalculation between the countries. According to reports, the Chinese jet came within 20 feet of the U.S. plane, causing turbulence and jeopardising the safety of the crew. U.S. officials called the actions unsafe and unprofessional.

China claims the encounter area as its own airspace, while the U.S. maintains the right to fly in international airspace. These differing views of boundaries and rights have led to other regional close calls. The U.S. sees China’s actions as an attempt to intimidate and bully, while China accuses the U.S. of provocation and threats.

  • Economic and trade disputes: Ongoing trade war and tariffs over intellectual property and technology
  • Military power: China is expanding its military to match U.S. might and building bases in the South China Sea.
  • Alliances: The U.S. is strengthening alliances with India, Taiwan, and Australia to counter China’s power. China is allying with Russia and Iran.
  • Technology: Battle for dominance in areas like AI, quantum computing, biotech, space, etc. U.S. limiting China’s access

With both sides determined to defend their interests, the relationship will likely remain tense and competitive for the foreseeable future. More close calls and direct confrontations are possible as the superpowers navigate this uneasy coexistence, raising the possibility of greater conflict through miscalculation or miscommunication. Ongoing diplomacy and open channels of communication are needed to reduce risks. The future dynamics between the U.S. and China will shape geopolitics in the 21st century.

Calls for De-Escalation to Avoid Future Dangerous Incidents

The U.S. military has called for a de-escalation of tensions and more transparency from China following this unsafe encounter. According to the Pentagon, the Chinese fighter jet came within 20 feet of the U.S. plane, putting the pilots and crew at risk.

Reduce Close calls

Incidents like this increase the chances of miscalculation and unintended escalation. The U.S. urges China to reduce these dangerous close calls and follow agreed-upon rules to prevent mishaps, collisions, and loss of life. Both sides should make safety a top priority to avoid future unfortunate events.

Increase Communication

Greater communication and coordination are needed to promote operational safety, especially in sensitive areas like the South China Sea. The U.S. has asked China to improve radio calls, follow standard procedures for intercepting aircraft, and avoid reckless behaviour. Establishing a reliable communication channel in case of emergencies should also be a goal.

Clarify Objectives

There is uncertainty about China’s intentions behind this encounter. The U.S. has requested that China clarify the objectives of its pilots in buzzing the U.S. plane. Were they attempting to harass or intimidate the crew? Or was this meant as a show of force to assert control over the contested region? Achieving a shared understanding of each side’s actions can help reduce risks.

The U.S. and China have a shared interest in avoiding a larger crisis, so de-escalating tensions after provocative acts like this is prudent. While close encounters will likely continue, following standard safety procedures, improving communication, and clarifying intentions can at least reduce the chances of a catastrophic incident. A spirit of cooperation and responsibility is most constructive for stability in the region.


So there you have it, the latest close encounter in the skies over international waters in the East China Sea. While officials call it an unsafe intercept, it seems to be business as usual these days as China flexes its military muscle. As tensions rise in the region, expect to see more of these incidents in the coming months. The U.S. won’t back down from exercising its right to operate in international airspace, and China won’t miss an opportunity to send a message. Though unsettling, these encounters end without violence. Let’s hope the trend continues, as any miscalculation could have serious consequences. Stay tuned for the next chapter in this ongoing geopolitical power play.


  1. […] Chinese fighter jets have become a prominent factor in the evolving dynamics of power in Asia, particularly in the context of rising tensions between China and the United States. As China continues to expand its military capabilities and assert its regional influence, the deployment of advanced fighter jets has emerged as a key strategy to reshape the balance of power in the region. This article delves into the significance of Chinese fighter jets in the escalating geopolitical rivalry between China and the US, exploring their technological advancements, regional implications, and potential consequences for regional stability. […]

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