‘It was a provocative act’: PLA pilot describes encounter with foreign military jet

Captain Liu Rui says his bomber was within 10 metres of aircraft from unnamed country over Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea last July

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2017, 11:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 7:36am

A PLA bomber pilot has described an eight-minute “threatening” encounter with a foreign military jet over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea last July.

Captain Liu Rui, 38, said he was flying his H-6K bomber on a routine patrol when he came within 10 metres of the aircraft, CCTV reported on Monday. He did not reveal to which nation the jet belonged.

“I could even clearly see the face of the pilot of that jet,” Liu said. “Since we were there for the first time, they were not used to it. All aircraft came close to us.”

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The patrol over the Scarborough Shoal was first reported on the social media account of the People’s Liberation Army on July 15, three days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of the Philippines in a case Manila brought over a South China Sea dispute.

“After checking us out, the pilot showed off the missiles under a wing of the aircraft when he flew off, [which means] ‘I brought weapons along’,” Liu said. “This was a provocative act in my view. It was like he was showing his muscles to me.”

Liu said the foreign pilot did not violate any code of conduct but the incident was unnerving.

“We were simply patrolling over international waters. If others can go to international waters, why can’t we? We are such a big country and our territory is huge. With the growth of our economy, our interests will also expand. I think [patrolling] develops our ­interests,” Liu said.

China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a vital maritime trade route rich in untapped energy reserves. The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have competing claims in the area.

According to the CCTV report, the patrol was to show the PLA’s resolve in protecting national sovereignty in the disputed waters.

The air force had been conducting “routine surveillance” in the area since 2012, according to the report.

On Thursday, a Chinese surveillance plane and an American spy plane came within 305 metres of each other in the general vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal.

China, US military planes come within 305 metres in ‘unsafe encounter’ over South China Sea

The US Pacific Fleet described the interaction between the PLA Air Force KJ-200 surveillance plane and the US Navy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft as unsafe.

In May, two Chinese fighters intercepted a surveillance plane over international waters in the South China Sea, according to the Pentagon.