China's defense ministry said Friday that a Chinese pilot had responded "legally and professionally" to a close encounter between military planes from China and the U.S. over the South China Sea.
A defense ministry official, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times that a U.S. plane approached a Chinese military jet that was carrying a routine mission near the Huangyan Island and the Chinese pilot responded with legal and professional measures.
"We hope that the U.S. could take the bilateral military relations into consideration and adopt practical measures to eliminate the root cause of air and sea mishaps between the two countries," said the official.
A U.S. Navy P-3 plane and a Chinese military aircraft came close to each other over the South China Sea in an incident the U.S. Navy believes was inadvertent, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.
The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft came within 1,000 feet (305 meters) of each other on Wednesday in the vicinity of the Huangyan Island. The official added that such incidents involving Chinese and American aircraft are infrequent, with only two having taken place in 2016.
The U.S. aircraft was "on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement to Reuters.
"On February 8, an interaction characterized by U.S. Pacific Command as 'unsafe' occurred in international air space above the South China Sea, between a Chinese KJ-200 aircraft and a U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft," the statement said.
The KJ-200 is a propeller airborne early warning and control aircraft based originally on the old Soviet-designed An-12.