The recent air intercept by China over the South China Sea and maritime intercept across the Taiwan straits of American aircraft and vessels are a part of the People’s Liberation Army’s “increasing level of aggressiveness” and it won’t be long before someone gets hurt, the White House has warned.
But it has also said that if the Chinese were sending a signal of displeasure at the presence of the United States in the region, it won’t succeed. “If the message that they are trying to send is that we are not welcome or our presence needs to be diminished, or they want us to stop flying and sailing and operating in support of international law: not going to happen,” said John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communication at the National Security Council during a regular press briefing at the White House on Monday.
Kirby was responding to questions about two recent incidents that have escalated tensions in the Indo-Pacific.
He said, on the air intercept, that China forced an American aircraft — an RC-135 — to basically go through their jet wash. “You saw the bump in the cockpit. That shows you how close that Chinese fighter was to our jet.”
On the maritime intercept, Kirby said the Chinese vessel came just 150 yards away. “Speaking as an old sailor myself, I will tell you, that’s pretty close when you are in open waters like that. And you can see the head of steam that Chinese vessel had on it as it crossed the bow of one of our destroyers. It’s unsafe. It’s unprofessional.”
Claiming the US was acting in accordance with international law, and warning that such intercepts can lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations, Kirby however made it clear it won’t change the US’s posture in the region.