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U.S. protests China’s ship harassment
Monday’s encounter was not an isolated incident. On March 4, a Chinese patrol boat shined a high-powered spotlight on the USNS Victorious that was sailing in international waters in the Yellow Sea, some 125 miles from Chinas coast, the Pentagon said.
Chinese navy maritime aircraft also flew over the ship 12 times on March 5.
Also on March 5, a Chinese warship sailed within 100 yards of the Impeccable after the aircraft buzzed the ship.
On March 7, another Chinese ship warned the Impeccable in a radio communication that its operations were illegal and that it must leave the area or “suffer the consequences,” according to a defense official.
China’s state-run Inner Mongolia Daily News reported last month that the USNS Bowditch was also shadowed for days by Chinese Y-8 and Y-12 patrol aircraft and navy warships. The report concluded by stating that “if an American spy ship enters China’s sea area again, China will sink it.”
U.S. survey ships conduct underwater monitoring and are viewed by the Chinese as military intelligence gathering vessels.
The Pentagon has tried for more than a decade to negotiate a maritime agreement with China to prevent such incidents at sea. China’s military so far has rejected such an accord.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said “the U.S. claims are gravely in contravention of the facts and confuse black and white, and they are totally unacceptable to China.”
“We demand that the United States put an immediate stop to related activities and take effective measures to prevent similar acts from happening,” Mr. Ma told reporters.
The spokesman did not provide details of what happened or explain how the U.S. ship violated laws.
“We expect Chinese ships to act responsibly and refrain from provocative activities that could lead to miscalculation or a collision at sea, endangering vessels and the lives of U.S. and Chinese mariners,” a Pentagon official said.
Richard Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the harassment of U.S. survey ships by China comes as Beijing is using its own survey ships to assert control over Japanese waters considered part of Tokyo’s economic zone.
Additionally, the Chinese navy is seeking to build aircraft carriers and the missile submarine base on Hainnan, he said.
The activities appear to be “the beginnings of a battle led by the PLA to assert control over the Western Pacific sea lanes,” Mr. Fisher said.
Mr. Fisher said he hopes the Obama administration will not give up the survey ship missions which he said are critical to American security and alliance interests in the Pacific.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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