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U.S. Navy plane damaged in minor collision with Chinese fighter

BEIJING (April 2) -- Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy plane over the South China Sea on Sunday, and after a minor collision, the American craft made an emergency landing in China, an American military spokesman said.

The 24 American crew members were not injured.

The EP-3 surveillance plane was on a routine mission when two Chinese fighters intercepted it, said Cmdr. Rex Totty of the U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii.

The U.S. plane was in international airspace, he said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not have any immediate comment. The People's Liberation Army declined comment.

The Navy plane collided with one of the Chinese fighters. It was not clear if the contact was an accident or if the Chinese jet tried to bump the American plane, said another spokesman for Pacific Command, Col. John Bratton.

The EP-3, a four-engine propeller plane, issued a mayday call before landing at an airfield on China's Hainan Island, Bratton said.

The Chinese airplane did not appear to crash, he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing ``communicated our concern about the incident'' to the Chinese government, Bratton said. U.S. authorities in Washington contacted the Chinese Embassy there as well.

The United States asked that the crew be well treated and that the aircraft be repaired and allowed to return.

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