A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber was buzzed by a Chinese J-11 jet in international airspace over the South China Sea late Tuesday night, resulting in both countries condemning the other for unprofessionalism.
The U.S. said the Chinese fighter came within 10 feet of the bomber, and nearly caused a collision. The Chinese pilot, operating at night, was traveling at high speed, above, below, and next to the bomber.
“We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision,” the U.S. said, according to the Associated Press.
China has accused the U.S. of provoking it by conducting these missions near its territorial waters.
“The U.S. military planes have traveled thousands of miles to show off their forces at China’s doorstep, which is the root cause of sea and air security risks,” Mao Nig, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. said it will not be intimidated by China and will continue to “fly, sail, and operate—safely and responsibly—wherever international laws allow.”
Washington said there have been more than 180 such incidents since the fall of 2021, NPR reported.
TRENDPOST: There is a feeling in the U.S. that China could be using wars in Ukraine and Israel as an opportunity to flex its own military muscle in the disputed South China Sea. Tensions between Beijing and Manila have been high after a Chinese coast guard ship and an accompanying vessel hit a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a military-run supply boat off a contested shoal in the waterway, NPR noted.
The report said U.S. President Joe Biden responded to the incident by repeating the claim that Washington would come to the defense of the Philippines in the event of a war. (See “BIDEN PROMISES MANILLA THAT U.S. MILITARY SUPPORT IS ‘IRONCLAD’” 9 May 2023 and “U.S. RAMPING UP WAR WITH CHINA” 18 Apr 2023.)
The U.S. and the Philippines signed a 1951 mutual defense treaty, when distilled, means any attack on Manilla’s military or public vessels “would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.” There has been confusion about whether the U.S. would fight alongside the Philippines over a South China Sea dispute, but that was clarified in a statement earlier this year.
China said, “The U.S. defense 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 U.S. sees the Philippines as a major ally in the region because any war with China would require air bases for American forces. Manila agreed to give the U.S. access to four additional bases earlier this year, including one about 250 miles from Taiwan.
China considers about 90 percent of the South China Sea as its own, even waters thousands of miles from its coast, the Times reported. This has been a source of great concern among regional powers.
Gilberto Teodoro, the Philippines defense secretary, said he hoped other countries would join “the fight.”
The South China Morning Post reported that Teodoro was likely referring to EU countries, South Korea, and New Zealand.