BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Defense Ministry has accused the U.S. military of "close-in reconnaissance" in China's airspace in response to U.S. criticism of a Chinese jet intercepting a U.S. Navy patrol plane last Tuesday.
U.S. reconnaissance can easily trigger miscalculation or cause sea and air accidents, Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a regular news briefing.
He warned that "If the United States does not want to affect bilateral ties, it must reduce and ultimately stop such reconnaissance."
U.S. CLOSE-IN RECONNAISSANCE, NOT CHINESE INTERCEPT
It is not "a Chinese intercept" but "U.S. close-in reconnaissance."
"The site of the incident is 220 km from China's Hainan Island, rather than the same distance from Hawaii or Florida of the United States," Yang said.
The Pentagon had claimed China's interception was "dangerous."
"What I need to stress is that the U.S. side has kept talking about the technical issues like the distance between the two aircraft, but ignored a policy issue of highly frequent close-in reconnaissance against China," Yang said.
According to the spokesman, one U.S. anti-submarine plane and one patrol aircraft flew into airspace about 220 km east of China's Hainan Island on the morning of Aug. 19, at which point a Chinese fighter jet took off to identify the aircraft in a standard operation.
"The United States calls it an 'unsafe and unprofessional intercept' and 'Chinese provocation,'" Yang said. "But indeed the Chinese pilot's operation is professional and has taken safety into consideration.
"As a developing country, China values its aircraft and pilots' lives, certainly compared to some countries that have their military pilots fly close to other's doorsteps on a daily basis."
COUNTERMEASURE AGAINST RECONNAISSANCE
Yang said that U.S. aircraft has conducted frequent reconnaissance missions against China for a long time, which has "gravely undermined China's security interests as well as China-U.S. strategic mutual trust and bilateral ties."
The U.S. State Department argued on Monday that its reconnaissance was transparent and that it had informed China. But Yang denied that, saying China had never received any information about such reconnaissance from the United States.
Yang stressed a wrongdoing, whether it is transparent or informed, does not change its nature. ' China has lodged complaints to the U.S.and made clear its stance on close-in reconnaissance through multiple channels, including diplomacy.
China is closely monitoring the U.S. military's reconnaissance activities, Yang said. He warned that the country will take corresponding measures to protect national sea and air security in accordance with the extent of the threat.
Asked to comment on the possibility that China should take similar actions against the U.S. if the U.S. does not stop reconnaissance, Yang said China enjoys navigation and overflight freedom in line with the international laws.
"As to the specific operations Chinese vessels and planes will take in the future, it needs to be decided by taking all things into consideration," Yang said.
HALT RECONNAISSANCE TO AVOID MISCALCULATION
The U.S. reconnaissance against China is large-scale, highly frequent recent and up-close in recent years, especially when the Chinese military holds sea and air drills.
"The U.S. is often an unexpected visitor, sometimes even intrude into the training or exercise area that China has announced," Yang said. "Such behavior can easily trigger miscalculation or cause sea and air accidents."
If the United States does not want to affect bilateral ties, it must reduce and ultimately stop such reconnaissance, said the spokesman.
Military-to-military contact was long regarded as the weakest link in the China-U.S. relationship. Both sides are striving to enhance mutual trust.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to establish a mutual notification for major military activities and a standard of behaviors for air and sea safety.
A Chinese delegation will attend a bilateral consultation in the U.S. on the standards of behavior for air and sea safety from Aug. 25 to 29, according to Yang.
"This is a very important step," Yang said. "We are willing to work with the U.S. to promote progress on the consultation."