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US urged to back off after spate of incursions
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-28 08:26

China has called on the US to reduce, and eventually end, military surveillance by both aircraft and ships close to its shores after a series of territorial disputes earlier this year.

The request was made during a session about maritime safety involving the countries on Wednesday and Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Ministry of National Defense.

The session came about after the US and China agreed to resume military relations during the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SAED) held in Washington in July.

So far this year, Chinese vessels have confronted US surveillance ships in Asian waters on five occasions, the US Defense Department said in May. China said the confrontations followed US intrusions into its territory.

"China believes the constant US military air and sea surveillance and survey operations in China's exclusive economic zone led to military confrontations between the two sides," the ministry said.

"The way to resolve China-US maritime incidents is for the US to change its surveillance and survey operations policies against China. Decrease and eventually stop such operations."

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Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman at the US Embassy in Beijing, confirmed the request had been received.

"Our position has not changed," Stevenson said, citing a statement made in July by US Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy that said the US "exercises its freedom of navigation while putting emphasis on taking care to avoid any unwanted incidents".

The US says waters 12 miles from China's shoreline are open to shipping. China says the US should not venture without permission inside its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In March, five Chinese vessels approached the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea, about 75 miles from Hainan Island. They had earlier encountered the ocean surveillance ship Victorious in the Yellow Sea.

In May, Chinese fishing vessels confronted the Victorious again. In June, a Chinese submarine collided with an underwater sonar array being towned by the USS John McCain.

China Daily-Reuters