BEIJING (TheBlaze/AP) — China’s Defense Ministry has rejected U.S. accusations that a Chinese fighter jet conducted a “dangerous intercept” of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace.

The ministry issued a statement Saturday night attributed to spokesman Yang Yujun calling the U.S. accusations “groundless.” It says the Chinese pilot conducted operations that were “professional and the Chinese jet kept a safe distance from the U.S. planes.”

This handout photo provided by the Office of the Defense Secretary (OSD), taken Aug. 19, 2014, shows a Chinese fighter jet that the Obama administration said Friday conducted a “dangerous intercept” of a U.S. Navy surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace. (Image source: AP/OSD)

The Chinese jet made several close passes by the Navy P-8 Poseidon plane, coming within 30 feet of it at one point, the Pentagon said, adding that the Aug. 19 encounter was the fourth such incident since March.

The Chinese statement says “the U.S. large-scale and highly frequent close-in reconnaissance against China is the root cause of accidents.”

Meanwhile the Navy is reportedly sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region on the heels of the intercept incident, according to the Washington Free Beacon. The strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson left San Diego on Friday, the Free Beacon reported, citing the Navy’s announcement of a “planned” deployment.