U.S. Rejects Caracas’s Claim It Breached Venezuelan Airspace

U.S. Rejects Caracas’s Claim It Breached Venezuelan Airspace

The U.S. military on Sunday accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of "aggressively" shadowing a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II plane over worldwide airspace, a fresh sign of growing hostility between the two countries.

The U.S. military rejected Venezuela's claim that a U.S. intelligence aircraft flew over the South American nation's airspace on Friday, saying the American jet was over worldwide waters and had been "aggressively shadowed".

A U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft was "aggressively shadowed" by a Venezuelan fighter jet over the Caribbean Sea on Friday in a move that U.S. officials are calling "unprofessional" and endangered the safety of those on board.

Venezuela identified the US plane as an EP-3E Aries II, which is a reconnaissance version of the P-3 Orion produced by Lockheed Martin Corp. More than 50 countries now support Guaido, and the USA regularly announces new sanctions against Maduro and his associates.

The EP-3 aircraft was "adhering to worldwide standards and rules" at the time of the incident, SOUTHCOM said.

At 11.33 a.m. local time two Venezuelan fighter jets intercepted the aircraft and it was escorted out of Venezuela's airspace, the statement said. The U.S. backs opposition leader Juan Guaido's attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

In a statement published on Sunday by Venezuela's government, the South American country's armed forces said they rejected "the incursion of a US reconnaissance and intelligence aircraft" in the flight area surrounding Maiquetia airport, which serves the capital city of Caracas.

The Venezuelan Operational Strategic Command also shared a map of where the incident took place.

The actions of the Venezuelan plane were "jeopardizing" to the USA aircraft and its crew, Southern Command said, claiming it was at an "unsafe distance." . "As the United States aircraft did not comply with such protocols, it was forced to vacate (the Venezuelan airspace)".

"This action demonstrates #Russia's irresponsible military support to Maduro's illegitimate regime & underscores Maduro's recklessness & irresponsible behavior, which undermines int'l rule of law & efforts to counter illicit trafficking", it tweeted. The entire encounter lasted nearly 3 hours and the US plane was not trying to "provoke this Russian activity".

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