A Chinese fighter jet flew within metres of a US air force plane in the South China Sea , forcing the American aircraft to take “evasive manoeuvres” to avoid a collision, the US military said. A Chinese Navy J-11 fighter pilot manoeuvred about three metres (10 feet) from a US RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance plane’s wing during the intercept on December 21, according to Reuters. The incident was only made public on Thursday. The Chinese pilot then “flew an unsafe manoeuvre by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the RC-135 to take evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision,” said the statement published by the US Indo-Pacific Command. Canada says ‘unprofessional’ Chinese pilots put air force personnel at risk “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” it said. According to footage of the incident from a US military video distribution hub, the Chinese fighter appeared to be flying parallel to the American aircraft. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin blamed Washington’s “provocative and dangerous actions” for causing maritime security issues, during a regular press briefing on Friday afternoon. “The US has seriously endangered China’s national security by frequently sending ships and planes to conduct reconnaissance at close range,” Wang said. Beijing called on Washington to stop “making provocative moves and smearing China,” Wang added. The incident is expected to heighten US-China military tensions in the region. Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. The United States does not claim the waters but performs “freedom of navigation” operations in the area. China has significantly strengthened its control over the region in the past two decades, despite an international court ruling against it and multiple overlapping territorial claims by countries including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The US military has also increased operations in the South China Sea, according to the Chinese think tank the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), which monitors activities in the disputed region. According to a report SCSPI released this week , the US sent 589 large warplanes from January to November for close-in intelligence gathering over the South China Sea. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in June called recent increases in interactions between Chinese and US aircraft and naval vessels “alarming” . Beijing has blamed the US for stoking tensions over the disputed waters by deploying military jets and vessels. Mystery airship spotted over Philippines near South China Sea Last month, the US and Chinese militaries exchanged words after the American guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville conducted freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. The Chinese military said the US vessel had “illegally entered waters” near the Spratly Islands, showing that the “US is the real trigger of security risks in the South China Sea”. A statement from the US Navy 7th Fleet described the Chinese military account as “false”. It said the US cruiser conducted the operation “in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in waters where high seas freedoms apply”.