Having relentless provoked Russia over the past month, when week after week the Pentagon expressed its shock and dismay that Russians dare to scramble fighter jets when US missile cruisers or reconnaissance planes fly next to, or above, Russian territory the US has decided to pick on another target: China.
It started one month ago when first a Russian Su-24 "buzzed" the US missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea allegedly over Russian territorial waters; then just days later another Russian fighter jet flew within 50 feet of a US recon plane also flying over the Baltic Sea; this was followed by a third close encounter when a little over a week later a Russian Mig-31s flew within 50 feet of a US spy plane flying over a Russian naval base in the Kamchatka peninsula; the fourth provocation took place just days later when as a Russian SU-27 conducted a barrel roll over a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane flying over the Baltic sea.
This series of Top Gun-like, if very dangerous (on purpose) stunts culminated this past Monday when yet another US spy plane once again brushed against the Russian border, promptly leading to another, understandably, angry Russian response.
So after five such encounters between US and Russian armed forces, all of which 'oddly' took place in the immediate vicinity of Russia and not, say, above the Gulf of Mexico or next to California, the US has moved on to provoking another even bigger and more dangerous cold war foe, China.
According to NBC two Chinese military aircraft intercepted a U.S. military reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea Tuesday.
This test of China's response did not come out of nowhere.
Recall that one week ago the US sailed the USS William P Lawrence within 12 miles of the contested and China-occupied manmade island of Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea in what the US Navy dubbed a "freedom of navigation" operation. China was not impressed and promptly scrambled two fighter jets to the U.S. navy ship, a patrol China denounced as an illegal threat to peace. China's Defense Ministry said that in addition to the two fighters, an additional three warships shadowed the U.S. ship, telling it to leave.
China's foreign ministry immediately expressed anger, and spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing the ship illegally entered the waters without China's permission and that the move threatened peace and stability. "This action by the U.S. side threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, endangered the staff and facilities on the reef, and damaged regional peace and stability," he told a news briefing.
But if Lu was angry then, he will be livid now after what Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said was a U.S. maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft was flying in a "routine patrol" in international airspace on May 17 when "two tactical aircraft from the People's Republic of China" intercepted the U.S. plane. The two Chinese fighter jets were J-11s and flew approximately 50 feet from the U.S. aircraft.
It's odd how US aircraft supposedly flying in "international airspace" and clearly minding their business, if just as obviously spying either on Russia or China, always end up getting intercepted... almost as if the flight path is not quite what the official narrative says it is in the post-encounter briefing.
Naturally, the Pentagon immediately spun this latest situation in the way it has constantly done in its recent close encounters with Russia - that it was China's fault the US was flying its spy planes near China's border and that China dared to retaliate.
"Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC actions, flying in a safe and professional manner" Baldanza said in a written statement, adding that iInitial reports characterized the incident as unsafe."
We wonder whose fault that is.
The incident is under investigation by U.S. Pacific Command. The U.S. said it has photos but they are classified.
We hope that once the US is done with its "investigation" it will notice the peculiar pattern where US spy planes and ships located by or above the territories of either Russia or China end up resulting in dangerously close encounters, usually involving either barrel rolls or "50 foot" fly-bys. At that point we can only hope that the US will also figure out who the recurring culprit in all these situations is.