U.S. officials say two Chinese fighter jets intercepted the American aircraft in international airspace over the East China Sea. The U.S. military is calling the actions of the Chinese as “unprofessional.”
"The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels," said Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Lori Hodge.
Hodge said the U.S. characterization of the incident was based on initial reports from the U.S. aircrew aboard the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft."
"Distances always have a bearing on how we characterize interactions," Hodge said, adding a U.S. military investigation into the intercept was underway.
She said the WC-135 was carrying out a routine mission at the time and was operating in accordance with international law. The aircraft is a "sniffer-plane" and its mission is to look for signs of nuclear activity in the atmosphere.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to comment on the specific incident and referred questions to the defense ministry which has yet to comment.
"For a long time U.S. ships and aircraft have been carrying out close up surveillance of China which can really easily cause misunderstandings or misjudgments or cause unexpected incidents at sea or in the air," she said. "We hope that the U.S. side can respect China's reasonable security concerns.