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China disputes US over ship tiff

CHINA yesterday accused the United States of distorting the truth and breaking the law after a US Navy survey ship jostled with Chinese vessels off an island in the South China Sea.

China's anger was directed at the Pentagon, which said five Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed the USNS Impeccable in international waters off Hainan Island on Sunday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu dismissed the Pentagon claims, saying the US ship was in the wrong.

Ma dismissed US accusations that Chinese boats operated recklessly and without cause, saying the claim was "totally inaccurate and confuses right and wrong and is unacceptable to China."

Ma said the US ship violated an international sea convention as well as China's laws on its exclusive economic zones and on scientific research in its seas.

China lodged a "solemn representation" on the issue to the United States, according to the spokesman.

According to a US Defense Department statement, the Chinese vessels "shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity" to the Impeccable, an "unarmed" ocean surveillance vessel, with one Chinese ship coming within 7.6 meters.

An unnamed spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington earlier denied the Chinese ships had violated maritime rules and said US ships had conducted illegal surveying, the Website of Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television reported.

The report said the incident happened 120 kilometers south of the island.

Activities violating China's sovereignty is not allowed in the country's special economic zone, a lawmaker from the Chinese Navy said in Beijing yesterday.

"It is our sovereignty for Chinese vessels to conduct activities in the country's special economic zone, and such activities are justified," Wang Dengping, political commissar of the Navy's Armament Department, told Xinhua news agency on the sidelines of the national legislature's annual session.

"Innocent passage by naval vessels from other countries in the territorial waters in the special economic zone is acceptable, but it is not allowed otherwise," Wang said.


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