China says US provoked naval face-off

China lashed out at the United States on Tuesday,blaming a US Navy ship for violating international law during a tense confrontation near a Chinese submarine base.....

Written by New York Times | Hong Kong | Published: March 11, 2009 1:11 am

China lashed out at the United States on Tuesday,blaming a US Navy ship for violating international law during a tense confrontation near a Chinese submarine base.

The Pentagon said five Chinese vessels blocked and surrounded a US surveillance ship,Impeccable,in international waters on Sunday. One of the ships came within 25 feet of the US boat,the Pentagon said.

“The US claims are gravely in contravention of the facts and confuse black and white,and they are totally unacceptable to China,” said Ma Zhaoxu,a Foreign Ministry spokesman,at a briefing Tuesday in Beijing.

He did not specify what laws the American ship had broken,but said the Impeccable had “conducted activities in China’s special economic zone in the South China Sea without China’s permission.”

Although the United States and other nations consider most of the South China Sea to be international waters,China claims an economic exclusion zone extending 200 nautical miles,or 230 miles,from its coastline.

The encounter on Sunday was the latest in a series of recent incidents in which Chinese ships shadowed the towering,twin-hulled Impeccable. The Pentagon said the confrontation took place in the South China Sea,about 120 kilometer from the island of Hainan,where China has an underground naval complex with submarine caves.

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