On Saturday China’s Defense Ministry rejected America’s complaint about a “dangerous” jet intercept as “totally groundless.”
As The Diplomat previously reported, on Friday the Pentagon revealed that there had been a close encounter between a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft and a Chinese military jet earlier in the week. The Pentagon had said that the Chinese jet’s intercept was “dangerous” and “unprofessional, it’s unsafe, and it is certainly not keeping with the kind of military-to-military relationship” the U.S. is hoping to build with the People’s Liberation Army. The Pentagon further revealed that it had filed an official complaint with China over the incident.
Yang Yujun, a spokesperson for China’s Defense Ministry, was quoted by Chinese state media outlets on Saturday as saying America’s complaint is “totally groundless.” The reports also noted that Yang said the Chinese pilot had acted completely professionally and maintained a safe distance from the P-8 Poseidon.
In fact, China argues that the U.S. was ultimately at fault for the entire encounter. Xinhua summarized Yang as saying that it is America’s “massive and frequent close-in surveillance of China that endanger the two sides’ air and marine security, and is the root of accidents.”
As The Diplomat noted on Friday, China has long objected to the United States conducting surveillance near its coasts, and has demanded that Washington halt these activities. At the same time, China itself conducts surveillance operations from within other states– including the United States’– Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
Yang was summarized by state media as calling on the “U.S. side to abide by international law and international practice, respect concerns of the coastal countries, and properly deal with the differences between the two sides on air and marine security issues.” However, China itself maintains that it is legal under international law for states to conduct surveillance within other countries’ EEZs. It objects to states gathering intelligence within its own EEZ, however, because its domestic laws prohibit these activities.
Separately on Friday the U.S. deployed a second carrier strike group (CSG) to the region. According to the Navy’s announcement, the CSG includes: “The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, and embarked Destroyer Squadron 1 deployed with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sterett (DDG 104), and USS Dewey (DDG 105).” The Navy said that the CSG would travel to the Western Pacific and Central Command’s area of responsibility. It also called it a “scheduled deployment.”