US says Chinese fighter jet performed ‘aggressive’ manoeuvre over South China Sea

The United States has claimed a Chinese fighter jet flew aggressively close to their reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, forcing the American pilot to fly through the turbulent wake.

Declassified cockpit footage appears to show a Chinese J-16 fighter pilot turn and swoop into the path of a US RC-135 causing the US jet to rattle in what US chiefs are calling an “unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre”.

US defence chiefs say the Chinese jet “flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135” as it was on a routine operation in international airspace last Friday.

Wake turbulence is a disturbance that forms behind an aircraft as it passes through the air. It can cause jetwash when the gases expelled from a jet engine create an extremely turbulent disturbance in the atmosphere for a short period.

In the statement, US Indo-Pacific Command said America will continue to “fly, sail, and operate — safely and responsibly — wherever international law allows,” and expects all other countries to do the same.

The US has complained that China has become significantly more aggressive over the past five years, intercepting their aircraft and ships in the region amid tensions over Taiwan and the suspected spy balloon flight.

The footage emerged after China declined a request from the US for a meeting between their defence chiefs at an annual security forum in Singapore last weekend.

“Overnight, the PRC informed the US that they have declined our early May invitation for Secretary (Lloyd) Austin to meet with PRC Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu in Singapore,” the Pentagon said in a statement referring to China by the initials of its official name, the People’s Republic of China.

The prospect of a meeting was being closely watched given regional security tensions and trade disputes that have derailed plans for re-engagement by the world’s two largest economies.

China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday blamed the United States for its decision, claiming that Washington was “well aware” of the reasons behind the lack of military communication.

“The US side should ... immediately correct its wrong practices, show sincerity, and create the necessary atmosphere and conditions for dialogue and communication between the two militaries,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters at a briefing.