Beijing — China’s Defense Ministry has demanded that the U.S. Navy end surveillance missions off the country’s southern coast following a weekend confrontation between an American vessel and Chinese ships.
In its first public comment on the Sunday episode, the ministry repeated earlier statements from the Foreign Ministry that the unarmed U.S. ship was operating illegally inside China’s exclusive economic zone when it was challenged by three Chinese government ships and two Chinese-flagged trawlers.
“The Chinese side’s carrying out of routine enforcement and safeguarding measures within its exclusive economic zone was entirely appropriate and legal,” ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said in a statement faxed overnight to reporters.
“We demand the United States respect our legal interests and security concerns, and take effective measures to prevent a recurrence of such incidents,” Huang said.
Despite the sharp remarks, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met in a private meeting Wednesday in Washington D.C. to say the countries agreed on the need to reduce tensions and avoid a repeat of the confrontation.