China has dismissed criticism from the United States
26th Aug 2014
China has dismissed criticism from the United States that a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US Navy plane in international airspace.
The Defence Ministry says the claims are groundless and that its pilot maintained a safe distance from the US aircraft.
The statement was in response to a diplomatic complaint the Pentagon filed with Beijing which claims the Chinese jet came within metres of the US plane.
The Pentagon says the "very dangerous" incident happened 200 kilometres east of China's Hainan Island on Tuesday, near a Chinese submarine base.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby says the Chinese fighter jet made several passes at an P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane.
He said at one point the jet flew wingtip-to-wingtip about nine metres from the Poseidon and performed a barrel-roll over the top of it.
"The US side's criticism of China is totally groundless," the Chinese Defence Ministry statement said.
"The US's large-scale and highly frequent close-in reconnaissance against China is the root cause of accidents endangering the sea and air military security between China and the United States."
Long-standing tensions in South China Sea
Admiral Kirby said the move undermined efforts to bolster US relations with China's military.
The military forces of the two countries have been looking to forge closer ties.
But this aim has frequently been tested as tensions between China and its neighbours, some of them US treaty allies, have heightened over competing territorial claims in the South China and East China seas.
The skies over Hainan Island were the scene of a major international incident in April, 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 spy plane.
One Chinese pilot died in the incident which forced the American plane to make an emergency landing on Hainan.
Chinese authorities detained the American crew of 24 for 11 days until Washington apologised for the incident.
The standoff soured US-Chinese relations in the early days of president George W. Bush's first administration.