The US Department of Defense (DoD) has expressed concerns over multiple interceptions of US and allied aircraft by Chinese officials in international airspace that it deemed unsafe.
Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, described these incidents as part of a “centralized and concerted campaign” to change US operational activities in the region.
“Since the fall of 2021, we have seen more than 180 such incidents: More in the past two years than in the decade before that,” Ratner said. “The skill and professionalism of American service members should not be the only thing standing between PLA fighter pilots and a dangerous, even fatal, accident.”
To support this accusation, the DoD released several new pictures and footage of these intercepts. In addition to other incidents reported in the past, the visual material includes 13 new instances of “coercive and risky behavior.”
The incidents include China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter jets flying in close proximity with US aircraft. In some cases, the fighters forced US aircraft to fly through their wake turbulence by cutting directly ahead of them. Other instances saw flares deployed near US planes.
According to the DoD, Chinese military officials have repeatedly refused requests to open lines of communication between the two countries.
“I think developing that relationship would be critical to maintaining the peace and stability in the region,” said US Navy Admiral John Aquilino, the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, adding that he has been attempting to establish dialogue with Chinese counterparts for two-and-a-half years.
US allies operating in the region have also reported similar happenings, with a total of 300 incidents since 2021. As recently as October 16, 2023, the Canadian government reported a “dangerous and reckless” interception of one of its observation planes by Chinese fighter jets as it was enforcing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against North Korea in the East China Sea.
Chinese authorities are yet to comment on the new accusations.