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China: Intercept of U.S. surveillance plane was 'legal, necessary'

July 25 (UPI) — China on Tuesday said a weekend encounter between two Chinese fighter jets and a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the East China Sea was “legal, necessary and professional.”

The Chinese ministry of defense issued a statement defending the incident, which the United States said nearly caused a collision.

The Pentagon said the two Chinese J-10 aircraft intercepted the U.S. Navy P-3 surveillance plane while it was operating over international waters.

“The aircrew deemed the intercept unsafe and unprofessional,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said.

A U.S. official said one of the Chinese planes flew beneath the U.S. plane and maneuvered to reappear 300 feet ahead.

The intercept caused the U.S. pilot to “take evasive action to avoid collision,” the official said, also noting that the Chinese fighters were equipped with air-to-air missiles.

But defense spokesman Rep Guoqiang said the Chinese pilots’ actions were “legal, necessary and professional.”

“The close-in reconnaissance of the U.S. aircraft threatened China’s national security, damaged the military safety between two countries and put the pilots of both countries in danger. This is a source of danger for China-U.S. military safety,” Ren said.

Ren called on the United States not to engage in such actions in the future, calling them unsafe and unprofessional.

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