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    US Says Chinese Intercept Could Have Caused Air Collision

    US Says Chinese Intercept Could Have Caused Air Collision

    BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. military says a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to an plane over the South Sea, forcing the American pilot to maneuver to avoid a collision.

    U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement Thursday that the incident occurred Dec. 21 when the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy J-11 flew in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of an RC-135, a type of large reconnaissance plane operated by the U.S. Air Force.

    The U.S. plane was “lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace,” the statement said. Its pilot was forced to “take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.”

    China frequently challenges military aircraft from the U.S. and its allies, especially over the strategically vital South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety. Such behavior led to a 2001 in-air collision in which a Chinese plane was lost and pilot killed.

    “The U.S. Indo-Pacific Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,” the statement said.

    “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” it said.

    China deeply resents the presence of U.S. military assets in the South China Sea and…

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