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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

China reacts to 'illegal' US navy operations

Tue, 10 Mar 2009 07:48:11 GMT   |    PressTV

China responds to US claims that its ship was harassed, accusing Washington of illegally surveying off its southern island of Hainan.

The Chinese embassy in Washington issued a statement on Monday in response to Pentagon claims that one of its ocean surveillance ships was shadowed aggressively in international waters.

"The US navy vessel concerned has been in China's special economic zone conducting illegal surveying activities," the website of Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television quoted Beijing as saying in the statement on Tuesday.

"China cannot accept these baseless accusations. China demands that the United States halt all illegal surveying activities," reads the statement.

According to the Pentagon, five Chinese vessels maneuvered dangerously close to a US Navy ship in the South China Sea -- about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Hainan Island -- on Sunday, approaching within 25 feet (8 meters) of the unarmed surveillance ship.

China says it has repeatedly used diplomatic means to demand that the US side halt its activities in the Chinese special economic zone -- where Beijing authorities have also sent vessels to carry out law enforcement activities.

The Chinese embassy also rejected the US claim that it had been operating in the high seas, adding that the Chinese government would issue a formal statement about the incident.

Republican Congress member Mark Kirk said "It's surprising in that the Chinese challenged a United States ship just two and a half weeks before the Obama/Hu Jintao summit" scheduled to be held in London in April.

Kirk recalled a similar challenge against former president George W. Bush just two months after he took office in January 2001 and urged a forceful response from the Obama administration.

He suggested that Washington once again send its surveillance ship USS Impeccable to the region escorted by a destroyer to send a clear message that it cannot be bullied in international waters.

US-China Working Group in the US House of Representatives will formally condemn the confrontation in a "strongly worded letter" to Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kirk continued.

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