The U.S. Defense Department says the intercept of an American military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea was not conducted ''in a safe and professional manner.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The U.S. Defense Department on Thursday (May 19) said that the intercept of an American military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea was conducted in an "unsafe" manner. "There were two Chinese aircraft that approached and our aircrew felt that the approach was not conducted in the safest, in a safe and professional manner," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters. On Tuesday (May 17) two Chinese J-11 fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of the U.S. EP-3 aircraft. The incident, which took place in international airspace, is likely to increase tension in and around the contested waterway. "We believe our folks were flying in a safe manner," Cook said. Earlier on Thursday, Beijing demanded an end to U.S. surveillance near China The encounter comes a week after China scrambled fighter jets as a U.S. Navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea. The intercept occurred days before President Barack Obama travels to parts of Asia from May 21-28, including a Group of Seven summit in Japan and his first trip to Vietnam. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims. Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands, while Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased U.S. naval patrols and exercises in Asia.