The September 15 intercept of an RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft occurred about 80 miles east of the Shandong peninsula.
The Washington Free Beacon, citing two anonymous Pentagon officials, reported that the Chinese interceptor crossed "very close" to the nose of the RC-135, "nearly colliding with the aircraft."
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the maneuver was "unsafe," but denied that the planes nearly collided, the Washington Examiner reported.
"One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during this intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 aircrew. At this point, right now, there's no indication it was a near collision," Cook said.
When asked about what specific actions the Chinese plane took, Cook said that it "passed in an unsafe fashion in front of the plane."
The anonymous Pentagon officials said the encounter was similar to an August 2014 near collision between a Chinese J-11 interceptor and Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft in the South China Sea.
In that incident, the J-11 came within 50 feet of the P-8 as it was conducting surveillance, in an attempt to coerce the surveillance aircraft to depart, the Free Beacon reported.
The Chinese military has taken a more aggressive stance toward foreign aircraft and ships as Beijing continues its land reclamation campaign in the South China Sea.
With roughly $5 trillion in trade passing through the waterway annually, it is a highly contested region. While China claims over 90%, there are overlapping claims from Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The United States has called for Beijing to stop its construction of man-made islands, which Washington and China’s neighbors fear may be used for military sites.
Beijing insists construction on the islands has primarily humanitarian purposes.
Issues of sovereignty are likely to come up during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s weeklong visit to Washington this week.