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Report: Chinese aircraft approached U.S. military plane as it refueled

Close encounters between U.S. and Chinese military aircraft may be increasing near Taiwan, according to a Taiwanese press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Close encounters between U.S. and Chinese military aircraft may be increasing near Taiwan, according to a Taiwanese press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 25 (UPI) -- A Chinese military aircraft flew close to a U.S. plane that was refueling near Taiwanese airspace, according to a Taiwanese press report.

The report comes after Taiwan said Chinese military airplanes flew in its air defense zone six times in a single week and at least eight times in June, according to Voice of America.

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Apple Daily in Taiwan reported Thursday the Chinese military aircraft flew in a southeastern section of Taiwanese airspace, close to a U.S. P-3C Orion, a long-range, anti-submarine patrol aircraft.

The aircraft was receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, a U.S. military aerial refueling aircraft on Wednesday, when the Chinese plane approached in a move that could be interpreted as a possible provocation, according to the report.

At the moment of the close encounter, the P-3C Orion was outside Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone.

The U.S. military warned the approaching Chinese military aircraft, according to Apple Daily. Neither Washington nor Beijing have confirmed the incident, the report says.

Taiwan's defense ministry has declined to comment on the situation but Taipei's military said officials are "closely monitoring the entire process."

Chang Ching, a Taiwanese security analyst, told the paper China is asserting itself before the United States.

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"China's intention is to reveal that it has taken full control of the rear-support dynamics," including when U.S. aircraft are refueling or unable to defend against potential incursions, Chang said.

Ahead of the incident, China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies issued a report on Tuesday, claiming the United States has expanded military deployment in the Asia-Pacific to an unprecedented level, and that the moves increase the risk of accidental clashes at sea.

U.S.-China relations have worsened over issues from trade to the coronavirus pandemic. Washington has also stepped up expressions of support for Taiwan.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said last month she rejected Beijing's demand Taipei reunify with China under the "one country two systems" proposal that does not recognize Taiwanese sovereignty.

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