U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) has reported that a People’s Republic of China (PRC) J-16 fighter pilot performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver during the intercept of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft on May 26, 2023.
The statement said that the PRC pilot flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence. “The RC-135 was conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law,” USINDOPACOM continued.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Japan and the Philippines will hold a trilateral maritime exercise in the South China Sea later this week. Tensions have risen in the region again this year, with the U.S. offering support to the Philippines in particular following a blocking incident in February.
The USINDOPACOM statement noted that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows, and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law. “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” USINDOPACOM concluded.