The US reconnaissance aircraft that was intercepted by a Chinese fighter jet was spying on and disturbing a routine exercise by the Shandong aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea, and the US’ accusation calling the Chinese interception “unprofessional” is a false countercharge as the US is the one to blame, experts said on Wednesday.

In a routine exercise by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Flotilla 17 in the South China Sea on Friday, a US military RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft intentionally intruded into the training area for reconnaissance and disturbance, leading the PLA Southern Theater Command to organize aerial forces to track and monitor it through its entire course, with maneuvers in a professional manner and in accordance with law and regulations, said Senior Colonel Zhang Nandong, a spokesperson at the PLA Southern Theater Command, in a statement.

The Flotilla 17 represents the Shandong aircraft carrier group, with the aircraft carrier Shandong carrying the hull number 17. Later on Saturday, the carrier group sailed north from the South China Sea through the Taiwan Straits, according to the defense authority on the island of Taiwan.

Zhang’s statement came after the US Indo Pacific Command said in a statement on Tuesday that a Chinese J-16 fighter jet performed an “unnecessarily aggressive” maneuver during the interception of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft on Friday when the latter was “conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace.”

The US statement didn’t mention details including the location of the incident or the mission of the US spy plane on the PLA Navy flotilla.

The US’ move seriously sabotaged regional peace and stability, the related reports disregarded facts and attempted to confuse the international community, Zhang said.

“We sternly urge the US to restrict its frontal maritime and aerial forces’ actions and strictly abide by related international laws and relevant agreements, so as to prevent maritime or aerial accidents from happening, or all consequences are for the US to bear,” the spokesperson said.

The command troops are on high vigilance at all time to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty security as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea, Zhang said.

In addition, according to open-source intelligence, the US spy plane also flew to less than 50 kilometers away from Jieyang, South China’s Guangdong Province, for close-in reconnaissance, the Global Times learned from Chinese technology and intelligence company MizarVision on Wednesday.

The RC-135 is a type of reconnaissance aircraft that is equipped with a number of antennas and electronic reconnaissance equipment that enable identification and monitoring of multi-band electromagnetic signals with a range of 240 kilometers, experts said.

It would allow the US to gain access to key Chinese military intelligence that can support US aggressions if a conflict breaks out, making the interception necessary, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.

From the video released by the US side, while the Chinese fighter jet made a warning move toward the US spy plane, it maintained a safe distance, so the US exaggerated the incident, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Since the incident took place shortly before the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a major defense forum in the Asia-Pacific region to be held from Friday to Sunday in Singapore, experts also pointed out that the US’ hype aim to push the “China threat” theory at the event.