BEIJING -- Beijing responded Wednesday to complaints from the United States about a Chinese fighter jet's dangerous interception of an American Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the South China Sea by demanding an end to such flights.
The incident adds to military, diplomatic and economic tensions between the countries over U.S. support for self-governing Taiwan, China's refusal to engage in dialogue between their armed forces and Beijing's flying of a suspected spy balloon over the U.S.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters at a daily briefing that China would keep taking measures it deems necessary to safeguard its sovereignty.
"The U.S. should immediately stop these dangerous provocations," Mao said.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command called the Chinese plane's actions an "unnecessarily aggressive maneuver," adding to complaints that China's military has become significantly more aggressive over the past five years, intercepting U.S. aircraft and ships in the region.
China says it owns the South China Sea virtually in its entirety, a claim not recognized internationally and directly challenged by nations along its coast including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
In a statement Tuesday, the U.S. military said the pilot of the Chinese J-16 fighter jet flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135 conducting routine operations in international airspace last Friday.
Further dampening prospects for a reduction in tensions, China said its defense chief will not meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin when the two men attend a security conference in Singapore over the weekend.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the plane incident showed why it is vital for the U.S. and China to maintain dialogue at a senior level in order to prevent miscommunication and avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict. He said it was "regrettable" that Beijing had rejected Austin's request for a meeting with the Chinese defense minister.
"I think it only underscores why it is so important that we have regular, open lines of communication, including, by the way, between our defense ministers," Blinken said at a news conference at the end of an EU-U.S. trade and technology meeting in Lulea, Sweden.
"As we've said repeatedly, while we have a real competition with China, we also want to make sure that doesn't veer into conflict, and the most important starting point for that are regular lines of communication," he said.
Information for this article was contributed by Matthew Lee of The Associated Pres.