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Asia-pacific

Chinese ships harassed unarmed US navy vessel, Pentagon says

Latest update : 2009-03-09

Five Chinese ships harassed an unarmed US Navy surveillance ship in international waters in the South China Sea on Sunday, the Pentagon said. The incident prompted the US embassy in Beijing to lodge a protest with the government.

Reuters - Five Chinese ships including a naval vessel harassed an unarmed U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship in international waters in the South China Sea on Sunday, the Pentagon said.

 

The incident prompted the U.S. embassy in Beijing to lodge a weekend protest with the Chinese government, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

 

U.S. defense officials on Monday reiterated the protest to China's defense attache in Washington, an official said.

 

The Chinese vessels "shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity" to the USNS Impeccable and its crew of civilian contractors, with one ship coming within 25 feet (7.6 meters), a Defense Department statement said.

 

It said the American ship was conducting routine operations 75 miles (120 km) south of Hainan Island.

 

"The unprofessional maneuvers by Chinese vessels violated the requirement under international law to operate with due regard for the rights and safety of other lawful users of the ocean," Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Major Stewart Upton said in a statement.

 

"We expect Chinese ships to act responsibly and refrain from provocative activities that could lead to miscalculation or a collision at sea."

 

The encounter was the latest incident of "increasingly aggressive" Chinese conduct in the area, which in recent days also included fly-bys of U.S. Navy ships by Chinese maritime surveillance aircraft, the Pentagon said.

 

The Pentagon identified the Chinese vessels in Sunday's incident as a navy intelligence ship, a bureau of maritime fisheries patrol vessel, a state oceanographic administration patrol vessel and two small Chinese-flagged trawlers.

 

The Impeccable is one of six Navy surveillance ships that gather underwater acoustical data while operating as part of the U.S. Military Sealift Command, the Pentagon said.

 

The Chinese vessels surrounded the Impeccable while two closed to within 50 feet (15.2 meters), waving Chinese flags and telling the U.S. ship to leave the area, the Defense Department said.

 

The Impeccable responded by spraying one of the vessels with fire hoses and later informed the Chinese ships by radio that it was leaving the area and requested a safe path to navigate, it said.

 

Two of the Chinese vessels stopped directly in front of the U.S. ship and dropped pieces of wood in its path.

 

The Pentagon described accounts of half a dozen other incidents dating back to March 4, in which the Impeccable and its sister vessel USNS Victorious were subjected to aggressive behavior, including dozens of fly-bys by Chinese Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft.

 

On March 7, a Chinese intelligence collection ship challenged the Impeccable over the radio, calling her operations illegal and directing the vessel to leave the area or "suffer the consequences," the Pentagon said.

 

Two days earlier, a Chinese frigate approached the Impeccable and crossed its bow twice, once at a range of 100 feet (30.4 meters).

 

 

Date created : 2009-03-09

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