Chinese jet performs 'unsafe' maneuver near U.S. plane, Pentagon -

Chinese jet performs 'unsafe' maneuver near U.S. plane, Pentagon says

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By Jamie Crawford and Greg Botelho

(CNN) -- A Chinese military jet performed an "unsafe" maneuver in front of a U.S. reconnaissance plane last week, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The announcement came the same day that China's President, promoting peace and downplaying differences, arrived in Seattle to start a potentially pivotal U.S. visit.

A U.S. RC-135 aircraft operating above the Yellow Sea, approximately 80 miles east of the Shandong Peninsula, reported the September 15 incident after the Chinese jet passed in front of the RC-135, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.

"One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during this intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 air crew and at this point, right now, there's no indication this was a near collision, but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion," Cook said.

The intercept follows a more dangerous maneuver last year when an armed Chinese fighter jet came within approximately 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft, at one point rolling to its side to show the U.S. plane its weapons load, Pentagon officials said at the time.

While last week's incident was not seen of as provocative, Cook said the incident was still under review.

It's already rankled some in Washington. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the "dangerous Chinese intercept of a U.S. aircraft last week shows that China feels emboldened to continue its pattern of aggressive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region."

The tables have turned before: In May China's navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane swooped over islands that Beijing has claimed over its neighbors' opposition. And two years ago, two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew through air space claimed by China.

From Beijing's perspective, the timing of Tuesday's announcement from the Pentagon certainly could have been better. President Xi Jinping is in the United States and will have an official state visit Friday with his American counterpart, Barack Obama.

In a written interview with the Wall Street Journal, Xi downplayed differences between the two countries, saying "even family members don't always see eye to eye with each other."

As to China possibly flexing its military muscles, the President insisted his country's approach is "defensive in nature."

"In strengthening our defense and military,... we are not going after some kind of military adventure," Xi said. "It never crosses my mind."

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