- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese rival to the U.S. global positioning system network has started providing services in China and the surrounding area.

The director of China’s satellite navigation system office, Ran Chengqi, told reporters Tuesday that the Beidou navigation system is offering services including positioning, navigation routes and time.

Ran did not specify who the target users are, but he said Beidou would be available to Chinese and foreign companies for research and development.

Beidou will be available to much of the Asian-Pacific region by the end of 2012 and worldwide by 2020.

China, and especially its military, have long been wary of relying on the United States’ dominant GPS network, fearing that Washington might take the system offline in a conflict or an emergency.

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