(Adds details from China statement, context)
BEIJING Aug 24 China dismissed U.S. criticism
of manoeuvres by one of its jets near a U.S. Navy patrol plane
off the Chinese coast as groundless and said its pilot had
maintained a safe distance from the U.S. aircraft.
The Defence Ministry statement came in response to a
diplomatic complaint the Pentagon filed with Beijing on Friday
when it said a Chinese jet had come within metres (yards) of the
"The U.S. side's criticism of China is totally groundless,"
the Chinese statement said on Saturday.
The military forces of the two countries have been looking
to forge closer ties, but these have been frequently tested as
tensions between China and its neighbours, some of them U.S.
treaty allies, have heightened over competing territorial claims
in the South China and East China seas.
The U.S. complaint concerned an Aug. 19 encounter about 215
km (135 miles) east of China's Hainan Island in which a Chinese
fighter jet came within metres of the U.S. aircraft performing
acrobatic manoeuvres around it, the U.S. side said.
The Chinese jet made several passes at a P-8 Poseidon
anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane, Pentagon press
secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said. At one point, the jet
flew wingtip-to-wingtip about nine metres (10 yards) from the
Poseidon and performed a barrel roll over the top of it, he
China denied wrongdoing and said the United States was
"The U.S.'s large-scale and highly frequent close-in
reconnaissance against China is the root cause of accidents
endangering the sea and air military security between China and
the United States."
In April 2001, an intercept of a U.S. EP-3E spy plane by a
Chinese F-8 fighter in the same area resulted in a collision
that killed the Chinese pilot and forced the American plane to
make an emergency landing at a base on Hainan.
The 24 U.S. air crew members were held for 11 days until
Washington apologised for the incident, which soured
U.S.-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W.
Bush's first administration.
(Reporting by Alexandra Harney and Adam Jourdan; Editing by