February 10, 2017 - 15:47 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Two U.S. defense officials told CNN that there was an "unsafe" close encounter between a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft and a Chinese surveillance aircraft Wednesday, February 8, CNN reports.
One official said the Chinese plane was a People's Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200.
The two planes flew within 1,000 feet of each other in the general vicinity of the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
A spokesperson for U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees U.S. troops in the region confirmed, the incident, calling it "unsafe" in a statement provided to CNN.
"The U.S. Navy P-3C was on a routine mission operating in accordance with international law," Maj. Rob Shuford said.
"The Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces," he added. "We will address the issue in appropriate diplomatic and military channels."
A second official said that the American P-3 had to alter course to ensure that there wasn't an aerial collision.
While the Navy considers the encounter to be "unsafe," it does not assess that any malign intent was behind the incident, though the event was considered serious enough to be raised up the chain of command.
The official called encounters between U.S. and Chinese aircraft like the one that took place Wednesday "extremely rare," noting that there were zero such incidents in 2015 and two in 2016. It was the first such instance of 2017.