US criticizes China for ‘provocation’ with jet

The intercept of a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft over international waters by a Chinese fighter plane is a "deeply concerning provocation," the White House warned on Friday.

"We have communicated directly to the Chinese government our objection to this type of action," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told journalists traveling with the president on Martha's Vineyard.

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According to the Pentagon, a Chinese jet came within 30 feet of the Navy P-8 Poseidon plane operating about 135 miles east of China's Hainan Island. It was roughly the same area where a Chinese jet collided with a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft in 2001, leading the U.S. to halt military relations with Beijing.

Rhodes said the incident, which occurred Tuesday, could similarly strain diplomatic relations.

"What we’ve encouraged is constructive military-to-military ties with China, and this type of action clearly violates the spirit of that engagement, and we’ve made our concerns known directly to Beijing," Rhodes said.

According to the Pentagon, the Chinese pilot conducted a barrel roll over the U.S. patrol aircraft.

"The message that they are apparently trying to send was, you know, they — resisting the flight of this patrol aircraft, which I remind you, as I said at the outset, was in international airspace," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

"The message we’re sending back to China is that’s unacceptable and unhelpful to the military relationship that we would like to have with them."