China says Australian plane was a threat

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China has given its own official account of an air confrontation between one of its fighter aircraft and an Australian military surveillance plane in the South China Sea.

China's Defence Ministry says its military identified Australian military aircraft and warned them to leave.

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said the Australian aircraft seriously threatened China's sovereignty and security and the countermeasures taken by the Chinese military were reasonable and lawful.

Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles revealed on Sunday that a Chinese J-16 aircraft flew dangerously close to an RAAF P-8A Poseidon conducting routine surveillance in international airspace on May 26.

In flying close to the side, the J-16 released flares then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the Australian aircraft at very close distance.

The Chinese aircraft then released a bundle of chaff which contained small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.

The Poseidon then ended its mission and returned to base.

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