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China on Saturday called US criticism of an approach by one of its jets to a US Navy patrol plane off the Chinese coast earlier this week “completely groundless” and said its pilot had maintained a safe distance from the US aircraft. The complaint concerned an August 19 encounter about 215 km east of China’s Hainan Island in which a Chinese fighter jet came within meters of a US P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane and, the US claimed, performed acrobatic maneuvers around it.

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