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China, US caught in naval row

world Updated: Mar 11, 2009 01:25 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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China on Tuesday angrily accused a US navy surveillance ship of violating international law in a face-off with its fleet off Hainan, home to its strategic island naval base.

“China has lodged a solemn representation to the US as the USNS Impeccable conducted activities in China’s special economic zone in the South China Sea without China’s permission,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a biweekly media briefing in Beijing.

Reuters reported that ‘Washington had urged China to observe international maritime rules after the Pentagon said five Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed the USNS Impeccable in international waters on Sunday’. A US defense department statement quoted by Reuters said the Chinese vessels ‘shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity’ to the USNS Impeccable, an unarmed ocean surveillance vessel, with one ship coming within 25 feet.

But in Beijing, Ma lashed out that ‘the US claims are gravely in contravention of the facts, confuse black and white, and are totally unacceptable to China’.

The confrontation has occurred soon after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Beijing to gather much-needed Chinese support for the US economic recovery. Both nations recently resumed military dialogue that was stalled in November after China protested planned arms sales from the US to self-ruled Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty.

Beijing plans to increase its defence budget by 14.9 per cent this year and develop China’s first aircraft carrier. A recent defence white paper released in Beijing had outlined bigger ambitions for China’s navy.

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