(CNN) -- A Chinese fighter jet made several "dangerous" and "unprofessional" passes at a U.S. Navy plane this week -- coming as close as 20 feet at one point -- in what the White House called a "deeply concerning provocation."
The incident occurred Tuesday in international air space in the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island, the Pentagon said.
Rear. Adm. John Kirby, the Defense Department spokesman, described a flamboyant approach by what he called an armed Chinese fighter jet that three times crossed beneath the Navy Poseidon patrol aircraft with "only 100 feet of separation."
"The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly towards the P-8 Poseidon, we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load," he said.
It then "flew directly under and alongside the P-8, bringing their wing tips to within 20 feet, and then conducted a roll ... over the P-8, passing within 45 feet," Kirby added.
Sounding exasperated, he called the maneuvers by the Chinese jet "pretty aggressive, very unprofessional."
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said it was "obviously a deeply concerning provocation and we have communicated directly to the Chinese government our objection to this type of action."
Rhodes said the United States has encouraged "constructive military-to-military ties with China" and "this type of action ... violates the spirit of that engagement."