The US Navy has had 18 unsafe or unprofessional encounters with Chinese military forces in the Pacific since 2016, according to US military statistics obtained by CNN.
“We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, told CNN.
A US official familiar with the statistics told CNN that 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, saw the most unsafe and or unprofessional encounters with Chinese forces during the period.
At least three of those incidents took place in February, May and July of that year and involved Chinese fighter jets making what the US considered to be “unsafe” intercepts of Navy surveillance planes.
While the 18 recorded incidents only involved US naval forces, the Air Force has also had at least one such encounter during this period.
“Our continued presence in the region highlights our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and demonstrates that the US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” Christensen added.
The US Navy told CNN that, in comparison, there were 50 unsafe or unprofessional encounters with Iranian military forces since 2016, with 36 that year, 14 last year and none in 2018. US and Iranian naval forces tend to operate in relatively narrow stretches of water, such as the Strait of Hormuz, increasing their frequency of close contact.
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SOURCE: CNN, Ryan Browne