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Sino-US military talk focuses on sea surveillance
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08:37, June 24, 2009

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Military surveillance carried out by US Navy ships within or near China's maritime territory surfaced as the major topic for discussion at the 10th Sino-American Defense Consultative Talks that began Tuesday in Beijing.

Military sources said that 45 minutes of the three-and-a-half-hour session Tuesday afternoon focused on discussion about surveillance by US warships offshore China.

The Beijing-based China Daily said that Chinese analysts revealed such disagreements may continue to arise in the future, even though Sino-US military ties have warmed in recent months.

The U.S. delegation comprised 11-member defense and diplomatic officials, headed by Michele Flournoy, the Department of Defense's undersecretary of policy. The Chinese side is led by Lieutenant-General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

US Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy (left) shakes hands with Lieutenant-General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army before their meeting in Beijing yesterday.

The talks took place in the headquarters of the Central Military Commission and will continue today.

Rear-Admiral Yin Changzhi, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army's Navy, spoke about "sea confrontations" on behalf of the Chinese delegation, the newspaper said.

The Chinese Navy had earlier protested about US surveillance activities, insisting that constant observation by the US in the South China Sea infringed upon China's territorial rights in its exclusive economic zone and damaged mutual trust between the two militaries.

The US side insisted its surveillance was consistent with its interpretation of international law, but said the US will take action to avoid mishaps.

The two militaries have been caught up in several sea confrontations since March 8, when the USNS Impeccable, a US surveillance ship, was in a standoff with Chinese naval and fishing vessels some 120 km south of China's southern-most province of Hainan.

In the latest incident, also in the South China Sea, a Chinese submarine damaged an underwater sonar array on June 11 being towed behind US destroyer USS John S. McCain.US defense officials confirmed to the Navy Times on Monday that the destroyer John S. McCain was tracking the submarine that day.

The Chinese Navy has insisted the US vessels were searching for crucial data related to China's submarines, while the US claimed its acts were within international practices.

"The discussions of the disputes will not upset the US side. Instead, communications on issues of common concerns help the relationships," said Senior Colonel Li Jie, a senior naval researcher.

The annual defense talks were originally set for last year but were postponed after China protested against a proposed arms deal to Taiwan endorsed by former US president George W Bush.

By People's Daily Online

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