The US has said a Chinese fighter pilot performed an “unnecessarily aggressive” manoeuvre during an intercept over the South China Sea.

In a statement, the US military command responsible for the Indo-Pacific said the Chinese J-16 aircraft carried out the manoeuvre last week and forced the US RC-135 plane to fly through its wake turbulence.

Wake turbulence is the disturbance in the atmosphere caused by an aircraft as it passes through the air, similar to the wake of a boat travelling through water.

Such intercepts happen occasionally.

In December, a Chinese military plane came within metres of a US Air Force aircraft and forced it to take evasive action to avoid a collision in international airspace.

The encounter comes amid increased tensions in the region over the status of Taiwan.

Last month Beijing ran a series of drills around Taiwan which simulated it surrounding the island nation, prompting a leading politician in Taipei to claim China was preparing “launch a war”.

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