US military commander-in-chief warns China of ‘significant increase’ in aircraft interceptions

The top US military official said China has become more aggressive in intercepting military aircraft and conducting unsafe aerial maneuvers over the past five years.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said China was conducting “dangerous intercepts” against US military aircraft and ships, as well as Canada, Australia and Japan. Ban and other US partners.

“The number of Chinese intercepts at sea and in the air has increased dramatically over the past five years,” Milley told the Financial Times and The Associated Press on his plane as he flew to Asia to visit Indonesia and Australia.

“The Chinese military has become ‘significantly more aggressive in this area,'” he said.

Milley declined to provide specific figures on the total number of incidents, but said the volume of unsafe intercepts – such as when a Chinese fighter jet came close to an American plane – has increased over time. “equivalent ratio”. It is not clear to what extent the increase is due to China’s response to the expansion of US activity in the region.

In May, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet flew very close to an Australian spy plane, releasing debris, including shards of aluminum, which was sucked into the P surveillance plane’s engine. -8.

Milley said he discussed the insecure interceptions when speaking with his Chinese counterpart, General Li Guocheng, in the first phone call between the generals since President Joe Biden took office.

Li responded by warning the US not to engage in “provocative actions”. The Pentagon insists that it is operating in international waters and airspace, but China wants the US to reduce its activities in the area.

Interceptions are just one of many contentious issues in the tense relationship between the US and China. Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to hold a phone call in the coming days.

Beijing warned the US after the Financial Times reported that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, would visit Taiwan next month, a country claimed by China.

China has signaled that it might respond verbally if Ms. Pelosi visits Taipei, raising concerns that Beijing could take military action, such as using warplanes. intercept her plane.

The White House is concerned that the visit is likely spark a crisis across the Taiwan Strait.

Milley visited Jakarta on Sunday as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen alliances in the Indo-Pacific. The move is partly designed to reassure countries that the US intends to maintain a strong presence in the region to counter China.

Before meeting his Indonesian counterpart, General Andika Perkasa, Milley said Indonesia is of “strategic importance” to the Indo-Pacific based on its size and geography. The four-star general is the first chair of the delegation to visit Indonesia since Admiral Michael Mullen visited the archipelago in 2008.

Milley will be traveling from Indonesia to Australia to attend a meeting of regional military commanders. He will be accompanied by Admiral John Aquilino, head of the US Indo-Pacific region. Milley said the delegation leaders will discuss the situation around Taiwan.

Speaking about the conference to be held in Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday, Milley said the “vast majority” of countries in the region want the US military involved.

“We want to work with them to develop interoperability and modernize our military, to ensure that, geostrategically, we can meet any challenge,” Milley said. set by China”.

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