China protests against U.S. spy flights near its coast

BEIJING Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:38pm EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China warned that recent U.S. surveillance flights near the Chinese coast have severely harmed strategic mutual trust and were a major obstacle hindering military ties between the two countries, state media reported on Wednesday.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, vowed on Monday to press ahead with surveillance flights near China despite opposition from Beijing, following reports that Chinese jets crossed a boundary with Taiwan to pursue a U.S. spy plane.

Two Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters last month briefly crossed a line in the center of the Taiwan Strait that is considered an unofficial air boundary between both sides. Asian media reported the Chinese jets were attempting to intercept a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane.

"We demand that the U.S. respect China's sovereignty and security interests and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations," the Global Times newspaper quoted the Ministry of National Defense as saying.

The comments followed Mullen's visit to China two weeks ago, which was part of efforts to improve ties with the People's Liberation Army. Their ties have been rocky, with China unhappy with U.S. reconnaissance patrols near its coast and is suspicious of its bases in South Korea and Japan.

China's rapid military buildup and territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also sparked concerns in the region.

The United States for its part wants greater military transparency from China over its military modernization, and has warned about China's growing missile and cyber capabilities.

Self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as part of its sovereign territory, has been another major irritant in Sino-U.S. military relations. China has been furious about a 2010 package of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan worth up to $6.4 billion.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Yoko Nishikawa)

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