A pair of Chinese fighter jets conducted an "unprofessional" intercept of an American radiation-sniffing surveillance plane over the East China Sea, the US Air Force said Friday, the latest in a series of such incidents that have raised US concerns in an already tense region. On Wednesday, the two Chinese Su-30 jets approached a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft—a modified Boeing C-135—conducting a routine mission in international airspace in accordance with international law, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge says. The WC-135 crew characterized the intercept as unprofessional "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft," Hodge tells the AP.
Hodge, who declined to provide further details, says the issue would be addressed with China through "appropriate diplomatic and military channels." "We would rather discuss it privately with China," Hodge says. "This will allow us to continue building confidence with our Chinese counterparts on expected maneuvering to avoid mishaps." China declared an air defense identification zone over a large section of the East China Sea in 2013, a move the US called illegitimate and has refused to recognize. Hodge declined to say whether Wednesday's incident was within the self-declared Chinese zone. (Read more East China Sea stories.)