BEIJING (AFP) - China's military on Thursday told the United States to end air and naval surveillance near its borders, saying it was damaging relations between the Pacific powers and could lead to "undesirable accidents".
The US should "take concrete measures to decrease close-in reconnaissance activities against China towards a complete stop", Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a monthly briefing.
Mr Yang's comments came with Beijing and Washington at odds over an incident last week in the skies 220km off China's Hainan island.
The US said that an armed Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US military aircraft, while China countered in a ministry statement carried on state media that the allegations were "totally groundless".
"The location of the incident is 220km from China's Hainan island," Mr Yang said on Thursday. "It is not 220km from Hawaii in the United States and certainly not 220km from Florida. So the rights and wrongs of this case are very clear."
The encounter has raised comparisons to an incident in April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 spy plane around 110 kilometres off Hainan.
China's military spending and capabilities are increasing while the US military, long a presence in the region, strengthens its defence alliance with Tokyo, which is at odds with Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Mr Yang said US ships and aircraft had long been engaged in "frequent, wide-range, close-in reconnaissance activities against China".
Such missions "not only damage China's security interests but also damage strategic trust and the bilateral relationship between China and the United States".
They could also "possibly lead to undesirable accidents", he said.
China's Global Times newspaper, which is linked to the ruling Communist Party, on Monday warned that Beijing could treat US surveillance flights as an "act of hostility".
On Thursday it said that if the US does not end them, China could carry out similar activities near US territory.
Such an "option has become increasingly possible as China's military technologies are advancing", it said in an editorial.
Separately, Taiwan said on Tuesday that its air force scrambled fighter jets the day before to track two Chinese Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft which intruded into the island's air space.
Mr Yang defended the professionalism of China's air force against accusations of pilot recklessness.
"Our aircraft are very precious and the lives of our pilots are even more precious compared with countries which ask their pilots to fly around on other countries' doorsteps," he said.