BEIJING : Top US and China security officials traded accusations this week over what the United States said was China’s intercept of a US Navy patrol plane near the southern island province of Hainan.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, on a three-day visit to Beijing, told several senior Chinese officials that China must halt the “dangerous intercepts”, senior Obama administration officials said. General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, called on the US to “reduce and ultimately cease naval and aerial reconnaissance activities near China”, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The row began in August when Washington complained that a Chinese military aircraft had launched a risky intercept of a US Navy patrol plane in international air space.

 The Chinese pilot flew a few yards from the US plane and performed acrobatic manoeuvres around it, the Pentagon said.

Beijing said the pilot had done nothing wrong and that Washington’s surveillance patrols harm China’s national security interests.

Rice met Fan on her first official visit to China, along with President Xi Jinping, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

“When it comes to the issue of unsafe intercepts, this is risky behaviour that could imperil the bilateral relationship,” a senior US administration official said.

Hainan is home to several Chinese naval bases as well as a sensitive submarine base.

In public remarks to Fan on Tuesday, Rice alluded to the issue, saying: “we certainly to need to avoid any incidents that could complicate the relationship.”

A more serious aggressive intercept by a Chinese fighter jet in April 2001 in the same area resulted in a collision that killed the Chinese pilot. China held 24 US air crew members for 11 days until Washington apologised.

US-China ties have been impacted by Beijing’s increasingly assertive posture in the South China and East China seas, the cause of several territorial disputes between China and US allies including Japan and the Philippines.

US and China officials held talks at the Pentagon after the intercept incident about rules of behaviour for air and maritime activities.

Xi is set to meet US President Barack Obama in Beijing in November.

The Obama administration officials called Rice’s dialogue with Chinese leaders on the issue “constructive” and added China took US concerns seriously. The two countries are working to adopt new confidence-building measures, they said, without elaborating on what the measures would entail.

Rice also renewed calls for the US to establish a “level playing field” for US businesses following Chinese regulatory probes into US chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. and Microsoft Corp..

“Use of legal means for intimidating and harassing US companies is antithetical to that,” the senior administration official said.