China, US Warplanes Nearly Collide Over Disputed South China Sea

Union Minster General V K Singh. | AFP

"Our military stance should be one that reinforces our diplomats", he said, adding "at this time we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all".

One US Navy patrol plane and a Chinese aircraft reportedly engaged in close and "unsafe" encounter over the disputed South China Sea islands this week.

The KJ-200 is an airborne early warning and command plane while the P-3 is a maritime surveillance aircraft. US officials said the two aircraft came within 300 meters (984 feet) of each other.

During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the USA should take a harder line in addressing China's assertiveness in the South China Sea.

In recent years, the sides have signed a pair of agreements aimed at preventing such encounters from sparking an worldwide crisis, as happened in April 2001 when a Chinese jet fighter collided with a USA surveillance plane over the South China Sea, leading to the death of the Chinese pilot and China's detention of the 24 US crew members for 10 days. The Department of Defense and US Pacific Command are "always concerned about unsafe interactions with Chinese military forces", according to the statement. The Navy plane was forced to change course to avoid a collision.

China's defense ministry defended the Chinese pilot's conduct in an interview with state media, saying the pilot had taken "legal and professional measures".

"We hope the USA side keeps in mind the present condition of relations between the two countries and militaries, adopts practical measures, and eliminates the origin of air and sea mishaps between the two countries", defense officials told the paper.

The previous Philippine government had filed a case against China in the Permanent Court for its blockade of Scarborough Shoal.

China and the United States have been at odds over the growing territorial tensions regarding the South China Sea for some time. "China asserts sovereignty over Scarborough Reef along with the Philippines and Taiwan", according to the CIA World Factbook, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has "sidestepped" China's banning of Filipino fisherman from accessing the waters "in a bid to establish closer ties with Beijing", Stars and Stripes reported. The policy rules out independence or US diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, and was first agreed to in 1972 by President Richard Nixon and China's Mao Zedong.

While the court previous year largely rejected China's claims, new Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has sought to mend ties with Beijing and the situation around the shoal has largely calmed down. The US asked for more freedom in the navigation of such areas.

A U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft from to the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron (VP) 4 conducts a fly-by with the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) on November 15, 2014. In his senate confirmation hearing, U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the disputed territory, and the White House also vowed to defend "international territories" in the strategic waterway.