The newspaper said the flights may resume as early as Thursday in international airspace about 50 miles off the Chinese coast.
The USS Kitty Hawk, which carries about 70 aircraft, recently passed Singapore and Sunday passed through the southern Philippines, a Navy official said. By the time a scheduled Beijing meeting occurs Wednesday between U.S. and Chinese officials, the ship could be ready to send up fighters to support the reconnaissance flights, but only if it soon receives an order to reverse course, a Navy official said.
The Kitty Hawk, based in Yokosuka, Japan, is part of Carrier Battle Group Five, which includes several other ships.
The purpose of the Beijing meeting is to discuss the flights, which the Chinese government says come too close but the United States says are routine missions conducted in international airspace.
The meeting was scheduled as part of the diplomatic exchange that led to last Wednesday's release of the 24 crew members of a Navy spy plane.
That plane made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island after it was badly damaged in a midair collision with a Chinese fighter aircraft April 1.
The United States wants to underscore its view that the flights aren't acts of underhanded espionage, but legal and overt movements though international airspace, a Navy official told The Post.
"Our view is that the flights are so benign that they don't need escorts," he said. Rather, he indicated that if the White House approves, the Navy fighters would fly farther off the Chinese coast than the reconnaissance planes, perhaps 100 miles away.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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