In August, a Chinese fighter jet flew a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 patrol plane over the South China Sea. This sort of aerial harassment has happened often enough that the U.S. government has a script for how to respond.
Last week, the Department of State released a new volume in its Foreign Relations of the United States series. One memo in the volume addresses a Libyan attack on an American C-130 transport plane in March 1973.
But Washington and Beijing do appear to be working hard to prevent aerial close-calls from escalating into actual violence. Chinese officials and state-run media decried America’s activities in the Pacific. But “Beijing did not endorse [the] dangerous behavior in the PLA response,” explains Alan Romberg, a fellow at the nonprofit Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.
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