, BEIJING, September 9- A Chinese fighter jet’s interception of a US surveillance aircraft last month was “unsafe and unprofessional”, a US official said Tuesday as a top White House adviser concluded a visit to Beijing.
But while the US side said National Security Advisor Susan Rice raised the hot-button issue, it remained unclear what steps Beijing and Washington plan to take in order to avoid such flare-ups in the future.
“When it comes to the issue of unsafe and unprofessional intercepts, we talk with the Chinese regularly and at high levels because this is risky behaviour that could imperil the relationship,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters at the end of Rice’s three days of wide ranging talks.
“We’re confident that the Chinese understood the risks associated with dangerous intercepts,” the official said, adding that both sides had agreed to work on unspecified “confidence building measures to ensure that accidents don’t occur”.
Rice’s visit is aimed at setting the stage for a one on one summit between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping being planned to coincide with the US leader’s visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing in November.
The rebuke came three weeks after the Pentagon said that an armed Chinese warplane came within 30 feet (nine metres) of a US surveillance aircraft that had been flying over international waters about 135 miles (220 kilometres) east of China’s Hainan island.
Beijing, which says that the waters are part of its exclusive economic zone, has dismissed the accusation as “groundless” and has called on the US to end air and naval surveillance near its borders.
– ‘They were interested’ –
The confrontation was one of a broad range of issues addressed in the talks between Rice and senior Chinese leaders including Xi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Fan Changlong.
At the outset of his meeting with Rice, Xi said that the “profound and complex changes” in the international situation make it “even more important than ever for China and the United States to work with each other”.
Rice told Xi that “in our vision, the new model of our relationship is trying to work to maximise our cooperation across the widest range of issues and to manage and minimise our differences”.
During the three day visit — which included nearly eight hours of talks between Rice and Yang as well as a 45 minute meeting with Xi — the top White House adviser urged Beijing to “make a contribution” in fighting Islamic State jihadists, US officials said.
“The Chinese answer was not ‘no’,” said one official who was not authorised to speak on the record about the closed door talks. “They were interested. But I think we need to figure out precisely what we need and where they can contribute.”
Other topics raised included the issue of Russia and Ukraine, Hong Kong’s pro democracy movement, and Beijing’s denial of journalist visas as a means of seeking to influence coverage.