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China protests US spy plane flights


Lockheed Martin's U-2 “Dragon Lady.”

BEIJING (AFP): China has demanded that the United States stop spy plane flights near the Chinese coast, saying they have "severely harmed" trust, but the Pentagon insisted that it was within its rights.

The dispute comes after Taiwanese media reported two Chinese fighter jets attempted to scare off an American U2 reconnaissance plane that was collecting intelligence on China while flying along the Taiwan Strait in late June.

Beijing's defence ministry said the US must end such flights, calling them a "major obstacle" as the two Pacific powers try to put a series of military disputes behind them, China's state-run Global Times reported.

The flights "severely harmed" mutual trust, the paper quoted the ministry as saying.

"We demand that the US respects China's sovereignty and security interests, and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations," it added. The defence ministry declined comment to AFP.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan would not give details about the recent episode but said that no US spy plane crossed into Chinese airspace.

"I can say that we fly reconnaissance missions in international airspace routinely and it is not unusual that (China) scrambles fighters," Lapan told reporters.

Lapan said that the issue showed the need for further military dialogue with China, a priority for Admiral Mike Mullen, who earlier this month became the first chief of the US military to visit China since 2007.

"Part of the reason that we have a desire for a more robust (military) relationship and communication with the Chinese is to prevent things from developing into a crisis," Lapan said.

"There are going to be areas where we don't agree. It's our view that this is a freedom of navigation issue, that we operate in international waters and international airspace," he said.

Sino-US military relations have been plagued in recent years by periodic tensions stemming from US plans for arms sales to Taiwan and naval standoffs in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and refuses to abandon the possibility of taking the self-ruled island by force. The two sides split at the end of a civil war.

The United States recognises Beijing and not Taipei, but provides military support to Taiwan.

In the June encounter, one of the Chinese Sukhoi SU-27 fighters crossed over the Taiwan Strait's middle line, widely considered to be the boundary between Taiwan's airspace and that of the Chinese mainland, Taiwanese media have reported.

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China  US  Spy plane  

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