Chinese jet fighters intercepted U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea

A Chinese fighter jet.
(Image credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. military reconnaissance plane was intercepted by two Chinese military aircraft over the South China Sea on Tuesday, a Defense Department spokesperson said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said the aircraft was conducting a "routine patrol" in international airspace when it was intercepted by "two tactical aircraft from the People's Republic of China." The fighter jets flew approximately 50 feet away from the U.S. aircraft, a Navy E-P3. Baldanza said the "initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe. Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC actions, flying in a safe and professional manner." U.S. Pacific Command is investigating the incident.

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