Beijing to "assess" report that Chinese jets intercepted US spy plane

China confirmed Thursday it was assessing a report that at least two of its air force jets carried out an unsafe intercept of a US military spy plane over the contested South China Sea.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the Chinese J-11 tactical aircraft on Tuesday intercepted a US military spy plane.

"We have noted the relevant report," the Defence Ministry in Beijing told dpa in a statement.

"According to the report, this is very possibly related to a close surveillance of China by US military aircraft. We will assess the understanding of the relevant circumstances."

The incident comes amid heightened tensions in the region as China has sought to assert its control in the face of competing territorial claims from countries in the region.

The Chinese jets came as close as about 15 metres from the US aircraft, according to an unidentified defence official quoted in US news reports.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday in Washington that such Chinese manoeuvres "are not doing anything to lessen tensions or to decrease the possibility for miscalculations."

"This is something that we routinely have raised in the past when it's happened," he said.

The US Defence Department is reviewing the intercept of what it said was a maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft by two Chinese tactical aircraft, a Pentagon statement emailed to dpa said.

"The incident occurred in international airspace during a routine US patrol in the South China Sea," the statement said. "Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe."

The Defence Department was addressing the issue through diplomatic and military channels.

China maintains territorial claims to most of the South China Sea, which includes overlapping claims with Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

The US has not taken sides over the competing claims, but says the issue should be resolved diplomatically and asserts the US right to freedom of the seas.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25


More from World

Trump's UN ambassador pick expresses concern about Israel's treatment

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's pick to serve as US ambassador to the UN, expressed concern...

Liberation of east Mosul nearly complete, Iraq's al-Abadi says

Iraqi security forces are close to ending Islamic State resistance on the east bank of the Tigris river in Mosul,...

Presidential powers: What Trump can and can't do

The powers of US presidents are relatively constrained, legally, compared to leaders in many other democracies.

Report: Istanbul nightclub attack directed by Islamic State in Syria

The attack on an Istanbul nightclub just after midnight on January 1 was directed by Islamic State in al-Raqqa,...

Latest Palestinian unity government agreement greeted with scepticism

A recent agreement between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on forming a national unity government was...