BEIJING – China on Thursday urged the United States to cut back on, or even stop, its close surveillance of the Asian giant using patrol aircraft, if it seriously seeks to repair damaged bilateral ties.
Ties between the world's two largest economies have been strained by competing territorial claims between China and its neighbours, some of them US allies, in the South China and East China seas. The two countries have exchanged barbs over a jet intercept of a US navy patrol plane by a Chinese aircraft, last week with the US saying the Chinese jet came within 10m (33 ft) of its plane over the sea.
"If the US really hopes to avoid impacting bilateral relations, the best course of action is to reduce or halt close surveillance of China," Yang Yujun spokesman of Defence Ministry said. The US patrols had seriously harmed China's security interests, he said. The Pentagon has said the Chinese fighter pilot flew acrobatic manoeuvres around the US Navy's P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine reconnaissance plane in international airspace in the South China Sea.
China has said the criticism by the United States, which filed a diplomatic complaint with Beijing on Friday, is groundless and that its pilot kept a safe distance. Military officials from both countries held talks on rules of behaviour this week at the Pentagon, a US official said. The incident took place 220km (137 miles) from China's southern island province of Hainan, Yang said. Hainan is home to several military bases, including one that houses a sensitive submarine fleet.
China's pilots acted properly and took safety into account, Yang said. "Compared to those countries that let their pilots fly about at other people's doorsteps, we certainly value the security of our pilots and equipment more," he added. The US and China have differing views about the legality of US military over flights in much of the region as a result of China's broad territorial claims and differing interpretations of rights under the Law of the Sea treaty.
Yang blamed the US patrols as being the root cause of unforeseen air incidents. "The US is constantly nagging about the distance between both countries' aircraft and technological issues and neglecting the political problem of its high-frequency, close surveillance of China."