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China says US plane intercept was professional

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BEIJING (AP) — China’s Defense Ministry has rejected U.S. accusations that a Chinese fighter jet conducted a “dangerous intercept” of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace.

The ministry issued a statement Saturday night attributed to spokesman Yang Yujun calling the U.S. accusations “groundless.” It says the Chinese pilot conducted operations that were “professional and the Chinese jet kept a safe distance from the U.S. planes.”

The Pentagon says the Chinese jet made several close passes by the Navy P-8 Poseidon plane, coming within 30 feet of it at one point.

The Pentagon says the Aug. 19 encounter was the fourth such incident since March.

The Chinese statement says “the U.S. large-scale and highly frequent close-in reconnaissance against China is the root cause of accidents.”