WASHINGTON — A Navy reconnaissance aircraft on patrol over the Caribbean Sea was approached in an “unprofessional manner” by a Venezuelan fighter aircraft, the Pentagon said Sunday.
The incident occurred Friday in an undisclosed area of the Caribbean Sea. In a statement issued by U.S. Southern Command, the Pentagon said the U.S. plane was in approved international airspace when it found itself “aggressively shadowed” by the Venezuelan aircraft.
“After reviewing video documentation, we have determined the Russian-made fighter aggressively shadowed the EP-3 at an unsafe distance in international airspace for a prolonged period of time, endangering the safety of the crew and jeopardizing the EP-3 mission,” the statement said.
Other than saying the Venezuelan plane took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas, neither the Pentagon nor Southern Command provided no other details.
The Pentagon did not respond to questions regarding the Navy aircraft’s mission. U.S. ships and plans often patrol the Caribbean Sea as part of ongoing anti-drug operations.
Venezuelan officials said the U.S. plane entered Venezuelan airspace without notification, was “a clear provocation” and violation of international treaties, and created a safety risk for commercial aircraft from the country’s main airport, according to news reports. Caracas claims there have been 76 similar intrusions this year.
The U.S. is one of more than 50 nations that support opposition leader Juan Guaido as the leader of Venezuela and oppose President Nicolas Maduro.