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China: Will Respond to US Surveillance 08/28 06:28

   BEIJING (AP) -- China said Thursday it will continue responding to U.S. 
military surveillance flights off its coast, rejecting American accusations 
that one of Beijing's fighter jets acted recklessly in intercepting a U.S. Navy 
plane last week.

   Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said China's military would closely 
monitor U.S. flights and reiterated calls for the U.S. to scale back or end 
such missions altogether.

   "According to different situations we will adopt different measures to make 
sure we safeguard our air and sea security of the country," Yang said at a 
monthly news briefing.

   China has long complained about U.S. surveillance flights that just skim the 
edge of China's territorial airspace. However, Yang said such flights this year 
have become more frequent, are covering a wider area and are coming even closer 
to the Chinese coast.

   U.S. sea and air surveillance missions occur most frequently during Chinese 
military exercises or weapons tests, raising the risk of accidents and 
misunderstandings, Yang said.

   That was a likely reference to an incident last December in which China 
accused a U.S. Navy cruiser, the USS Cowpens, of having veered too close to 
China's sole aircraft carrier in the South China Sea during sea drills. That 
nearly led to a collision with a Chinese navy ship in the most serious sea 
confrontation between the two nations in years.

   The latest incident also revived memories of the 2001 collision between a 
Chinese jet and a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off China's Hainan Island, 
killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the Navy plane to make an emergency 
landing on the island.

   Yang, however, wouldn't say what distance China considers acceptable, saying 
only that the U.S. should scale back or end such flights entirely if it wants 
to avoid potential accidents and build mutual trust.

   The Pentagon said that in the Aug. 19 encounter, a Chinese jet made several 
close passes by the Navy P-8 Poseidon plane, coming within 30 feet (9 meters) 
of it at one point.

   It said that included the Chinese jet doing a "barrel roll" maneuver over 
the top of the Poseidon --- a modified Boeing 737 --- and passing across the 
nose of the Navy plane apparently to show that it was armed.

   The incident took place about 135 miles (220 kilometers) from Hainan, which 
is home to naval airfields and a highly sensitive submarine base.

   Yang rejected U.S. accusations that the Chinese pilot acted in a dangerous 
and unprofessional manner, saying it was the U.S. that seemed to have little 
regard for the safety of its personnel.

   "China is a developing country. Our aircraft are very precious. The lives of 
our pilots are even more precious," Yang said. "Compared to countries that ask 
their pilots to fly down on other countries' door steps, we cherish more the 
safety of our personnel and equipment."


(KA)


 
 
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