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Chinese fighter jet buzzes US plane

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The pilot of the Chinese fighter can be easily seen in this photo of the encounter.  (Source: Defense Department/CNN) The pilot of the Chinese fighter can be easily seen in this photo of the encounter. (Source: Defense Department/CNN)

WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - The Pentagon says a Chinese fighter jet made aggressive maneuvers at a U.S. Navy plane in international air space.

At one point, the wing tips of the planes came as close as 20 feet of each other.

Pictures taken from the American P-8 sub hunter show just how close the Chinese fighter jet came, close enough for the American crew to easily see details on the Chinese craft, and even the pilot inside.

"It's difficult to say with precision, but within 30 feet of the P-8. Very, very close, very dangerous,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

And it didn't happen just once as the American plane flew on what is being called a routine patrol mission, repeatedly the Chinese fighter roared over, under, and beside it.

“The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon. We believe to make the point of showing its weapons load out,” Kirby said.

Military officials say the incident occurred in international airspace about 135 miles east of Hainan Island, just off the south coast of China. And it is just the latest sign of friction as America and its allies clash with the Russians and Chinese over surveillance in the region.

Earlier this year, the U.S. moved two of its largest drones to Japan. They are called global hawks and are used for surveillance.

And last April, north of Japan, a Russian jet buzzed another U.S. plane designed to track radar signals. The Russian pilot came within 100 feet that time, and again, flashed his weapons at the American plane.

So U.S. officials clearly see a pattern of push-backs continuing with this more recent encounter.

“Obviously a deeply concerning provocation and we have communicated directly to the Chinese government our objection to this type of action,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

The Chinese have been conducting large scale military drills and they've made it clear, they consider the presence of American spy planes to be a provocation, suggesting even if those American planes are in international airspace, they have no business peeping in on Chinese affairs.

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