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China Accuses US of Distorting Facts After Aircraft Close Call

A U.S. military plane involved in a confrontation with Chinese aircraft in disputed southern waters last week had violated international law and put the safety of Chinese pilots at risk, a defense ministry spokesperson said.

The U.S. military said Thursday that a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet had come within 3 meters of a U.S. air force RC-135 aircraft on Dec. 21, forcing it to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

But Tian Junli, spokesperson for China’s Southern Theater Command, said in a statement late Saturday that the United States had misled the public about the incident near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

He said the U.S. plane violated international law, disregarded repeated warnings by China and made dangerous approaches that threatened the safety of China’s aircraft.

“The United States deliberately misleads public opinion … in an attempt to confuse the international audience,” Tian said.

“We solemnly request the U.S. side to restrain the actions of frontline naval and air forces, strictly abide by related international laws and agreements, and prevent accidents in the sea and the air.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, but parts of it are contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

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