China is dismissing as "groundless" U.S. accusations that one of its fighter jets came too close to a U.S. Navy patrol plane off the Chinese coast on Tuesday.
A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, made the comment Saturday. In a statement cited by China's Xinhua news agency, Yang also said the Chinese pilot had maintained a safe distance from the U.S. aircraft and that the United States, and its massive and frequent close-in surveillance of China, endangered air and marine security.
The U.S. Defense Department Friday said the Chinese plane conducted a "dangerous intercept" of the Navy jet, a P-8 Poseidon plane, and that the Pentagon registered its concerns to the Chinese.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the Chinese jet made several close passes.
"The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon," Kirby told a news conference, "we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load. And, then they flew directly under and alongside the P-8, bringing their wingtips, as it said, to within 20 feet and then conducted a roll."
Kirby says the incident took place Tuesday in international waters, 200 km east of Hainan Island as the U.S. jet was on a routine patrol. He said the encounter posed a risk to the safety and well-being of the air crew and was inconsistent with customary international law.