Chinese fighters buzz U.S. spy plane, underlining differences over surveillance, North Korea

BEIJING  Two Chinese fighter jets this week buzzed a U.S. spy plane that sniffs out nuclear radiation as it flew over the seas between China and North Korea, underlining Beijings discomfort with American surveillance and differences in the countries approach to the threat posed by the regime in Pyongyang.

A Defense Department official said the Chinese aircraft got within 100 feet or so of the U.S. plane.

The incident, reported by the U.S. Air Force on Friday, comes as the two nations struggle to overcome discord over how to confront the nuclear and missile programs of North Korea, which depends on China as its main economic lifeline.

[North Korea showed off a lot of missiles. What might be their targets?]

The American plane, a WC-135 Constant Phoenix, collects samples from the air to detect nuclear explosions. It is used worldwide to monitor compliance with international obligations. It flies about 150 missions a year, the defense official said.

The Air Force said the plane was on a routine mission in international airspace in the East China Sea, a broad expanse of ocean. But Chinas Ministry of National Defense said the incident occurred in the Yellow Sea, the northern part of the East China Sea that lies between China and the Korean Peninsula.

An American official told CNN that the plane has been regularly deployed in northeast Asia to gather evidence of possible nuclear tests by North Korea.

The Chinese military has become increasingly unhappy with U.S. surveillance in the East....

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