This latest incident comes just as US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping shared their first phone-call.
"The Department of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command are always concerned about unsafe interactions with any Chinese military forces", Air Force Capt. Cody Chiles, Pacific Command spokesman, said in a statement.
China, whose expansion in the South China Sea continues to be a friction point with the United States and other nations, had several interactions with USA military aircraft in 2014 that raised concerns at the Pentagon.
During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the USA should take a harder line in addressing China's assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The KJ-200 is a propeller airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) based originally on the old Soviet-designed An-12, used to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long range.
"The U.S. Navy P-3C was on a routine mission operating in accordance with worldwide law", U.S. Pacific Command Maj.
In Beijing, China's defense ministry told state media the Chinese pilot responded with "legal and professional measures".
Davis said that despite disputes in the South China Sea and provocative incidents in the past, this time run-in didn't appear to have been made with ill-intent.
The previous Philippine government had filed a case against China in the Permanent Court for its blockade of Scarborough Shoal. "China asserts sovereignty over Scarborough Reef along with the Philippines and Taiwan", according to the CIA World Factbook, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has "sidestepped" China's banning of Filipino fisherman from accessing the waters "in a bid to establish closer ties with Beijing", Stars and Stripes reported.
Rex Tillerson said the USA should deny China access to artificial reefs it built in the South China Sea. Mr. Trump had shocked Beijing by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president and previously saying the United States had no obligation to abide by the policy.
More recently, China voiced concern over the successful testing of a joint U.S. -Japan ballistic missile defense system.
"US plane was on a routine mission operating in accordance with global law", he said.
Davis said that despite a history of hostile intercepts, including the 2001 Hainan Island incident, the USA doesn't "really see that [behavior] so much anymore". This news story is related to Latest/185370-US-Chinese-military-planes-come-close-at-South-China-Sea/ - breaking news, latest news, pakistan ne.