US 'unsafe interception' claim refuted as PLA fighter jet's act 'legitimate and reasonable'
Published: Oct 27, 2023 09:43 PM
Xinhua file photo of a B-52 strategic bomber

Xinhua file photo of a B-52 strategic bomber

China will continue to take resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday, after the US military released a video of a Chinese fighter jet intercepting a US Air Force B-52 bomber.

Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at Friday's press briefing that "the US sent military aircraft halfway around the world to flex muscles at China's doorstep. This is the root cause of maritime and air security risks."

Chinese experts said that the Chinese military's act is entirely legitimate and reasonable, and the Chinese side will not tolerate US strategic bombers threatening China's national security. 

A video released by the US Indo-Pacific Command on Thursday (local time) shows a J-11 fighter jet of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) flying close to a US B-52 bomber in a recent operation on Tuesday. 

The command said in a Thursday statement that the Chinese pilot flew in an "unsafe and unprofessional manner," "closing with uncontrolled excessive speed, flying below, in front of, and within 10 feet of the B-52," and aggravating the "danger of collision."

On October 17, the Pentagon said that US military aircraft have had over 180 dangerous mid-air encounters with PLA warplanes since 2021, alleging that China coerced a change in "lawful US operational activity" through "risky behaviors."

Analysts said the US was attempting to further hype "China threat" through the video clip. According to China's Ministry of National Defense, since 2023, US reconnaissance planes have approached China's airspace more than 2,000 times, two US vessels have intruded into Chinese territorial waters in the Xisha Islands and five vessels have crossed the Taiwan Straits.

In the video clip made public by the US side, the Chinese fighter jet approached the B-52 bomber from behind and below, then opened its dorsal deceleration plate to slow down and flew side-by-side with the US jet, demonstrating excellent flying skills, Chinese military expert Zhang Xuefeng told the Global Times on Friday.

The B-52 is a nuclear-capable bomber that can carry cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, and poses a significant threat when it approaches China's airspace, especially at night, Zhang said. 

The PLA had to send fighter jets to observe on that occasion, identify and drive away the foreign forces at close range, said Zhang. "The US military should be fully aware of the sensitivity and risk of strategic bombers approaching Chinese airspace."

The B-52 bomber had a strong intention to feel out the situation in the South China Sea and test China's air defense system, so as to better prepare for a possible military conflict, such as conducting tactical and strategic exercises, Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Friday. 

"No sovereign state would condone another country's strategic bombers threatening its national security," said Song. "China's interception of the US' strategic bomber was in full compliance with international law."

The incident came just days ahead of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, a China-hosted platform on defense and security issues, which will see the attendance of US military officials. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian said on Thursday that the US is solely responsible for the difficulties and obstacles facing China-US military relations, and urged it to rectify its mistakes and take concrete measures to bring the military relationship back on the right track.

China has always attached great importance to the development of China-US military relations, but has a firm principle that its sovereignty, dignity and core interests are inviolable, Wu said. 

It should be emphasized that one of the purposes of the US participation in the Beijing Xiangshan Forum is to test China's bottom line. The US' use of proximity detection, whether it is through sending reconnaissance or bomber planes to the vicinity of Chinese territory, is also aimed at creating a strategic deterrence against China and gathering more information, according to Song. 

Despite Washington showing a gesture of engagement between two militaries by attending the China-hosted security forum, its essence remains unchanged, Song said.