Two Chinese military aircraft intercepted a U.S. military reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea Tuesday. Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said that the U.S. maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft was flying in a “routine patrol” in international airspace on May 17 when “two tactical aircraft from the People’s Republic of China” intercepted the U.S. plane.

The two Chinese fighter jets were J-11s and flew approximately 50 feet from the U.S. aircraft, a Navy E-P3. “Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe,” Baldanza said in a written statement, adding, “Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC actions, flying in a safe and professional manner.” READ MORE