US downplays Chinese fighter jet images

China is years away from fielding a stealth aircraft, despite the disclosure of images indicating that it appears to have a working prototype, a US Navy official has said.

The images were published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, which said they appeared to show a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter prototype making a high-speed taxi test.

The disclosure comes days before US Defence Secretary Robert Gates travels to Beijing. The pictures will heighten US concerns about China's military build-up, including the possible deployment in 2011 of its first aircraft carrier.

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