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The U.S. intelligence-gathering ship, USNS Impeccable, came under Chinese naval harassment from a China Maritime Surveillance ship, part of Beijing’s quasi-military maritime patrol craft, in June.

During that incident, the Chinese ship warned the Navy ship it was operating illegally despite sailing in international waters. The Chinese demanded that the ship first obtain permission before sailing in the area that was more than 100 miles from China’s coast.

The U.S. military has been stepping up surveillance of China’s naval forces, including the growing submarine fleet, as part of the U.S. policy of rebalancing forces to the Pacific.

The Impeccable was harassed in March 2009 by five Chinese ships that followed it and sprayed it with water hoses in an effort to thwart its operations.

A second spy ship, the USNS Victorious, also came under Chinese maritime harassment several years ago.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, when asked last summer about increased Chinese naval activities near Guam and Hawaii in retaliation for U.S. ship-based spying on China, said the dispute involves different interpretations of controlled waters.

Locklear said in a meeting with reporters in July, “We believe the U.S. position is that those activities are less constrained than what the Chinese believe.”

China is seeking to control large areas of international waters—claiming they are part of its United Nations-defined economic exclusion zone—that Locklear said cover “most of the major sea lines of communication” near China and are needed to remain free for trade and shipping.

Locklear, who is known for his conciliatory views toward the Chinese military, sought to play down recent disputes. When asked if the Chinese activities were troubling, he said: “I would say it’s not provocative certainly. I’d say that in the Asia-Pacific, in the areas that are closer to the Chinese homeland, that we have been able to conduct operations around each other in a very professional and increasingly professional manner.”

The Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command have sought to develop closer ties to the Chinese military as part of the Obama administration’s Asia pivot policies.

However, China’s military has shown limited interest in closer ties.

China’s state-controlled news media regularly report that the United States is seeking to defeat China by encircling the country with enemies while promoting dissidents within who seek the ouster of the communist regime.

The Obama administration has denied it is seeking to “contain” China and has insisted it wants continued close economic and diplomatic relations.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to seek a new type of major power relationship during a summit in California earlier this year. However, the exact nature of the new relationship remains unclear.