In the Indo-Pacific region, Chinese pilots have engaged in a notable surge of “coercive and risky” actions against US aircraft over the past two years, surpassing the frequency of such incidents in the preceding decade, according to Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.
The Pentagon highlighted this concerning pattern by releasing previously undisclosed photos and videos of Chinese fighter jets intercepting US aircraft operating in international airspace.
These images, dating back to January 2022, depict Chinese fighter jets closely approaching US military aircraft in international airspace with the apparent intent of “intimidation,” as emphasized by the Pentagon. The videos clearly illustrate instances where Chinese fighter jets came within a mere 20 feet of US planes.
Assistant Secretary Ratner stated that this behavior reflects a “centralized and concerted campaign” aimed at coercing alterations in lawful US operational activities.
One particular photograph from August 10 exhibits a Chinese fighter jet closing in on a US aircraft, which had to execute “defense procedures” to evade the Chinese plane that approached within 50 feet before performing a “barrel roll” underneath the US plane.
The disclosed photos and videos also show Chinese jets releasing objects and projectiles, including flares. Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of INDOPACOM, firmly asserted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army must cease this behavior entirely.
Despite prior concerns raised by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other Pentagon officials in various forums, including meetings with Chinese military leaders, this year’s efforts to engage in dialogue with the Chinese military have gone unanswered.
The US is increasingly worried about the lack of military-to-military dialogue between the two nations, particularly since Beijing cut off communications after a visit by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan last year, which deeply displease Chinese leaders.
This revelation coincides with the imminent release of the Pentagon’s 2023 “Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” commonly known as the China Military Power Report.
This annual assessment provides comprehensive insights into China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing military capabilities, as well as its nuclear program.