USA / China

Chi­nese Ves­sels Approach Sealift Com­mand Ship in Yel­low Sea

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2009 — Chi­nese fish­ing ves­sels closed in on and maneu­vered near the USNS Vic­to­ri­ous in inter­na­tion­al waters in the Yel­low Sea on May 1, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said today.
The Vic­to­ri­ous is one of the five ocean sur­veil­lance ships that are part of the 25 ships in Mil­i­tary Sealift Command’s Spe­cial Mis­sion Ships Pro­gram.

The ves­sel was con­duct­ing rou­tine oper­a­tions 170 miles off the coast of Chi­na when two Chi­nese fish­ing ves­sels approached, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Bryan Whit­man said.
“This was an inci­dent where a cou­ple of Chi­nese fish­ing ves­sels maneu­vered close to the Vic­to­ri­ous in what was an unsafe man­ner,” Whit­man said.

The Vic­to­ri­ous took defen­sive mea­sures as the ves­sels got close. The Vic­to­ri­ous crew sound­ed the ship’s dan­ger alarms and manned fire hoses. They sprayed water at the Chi­nese ves­sels, but did not hit them, offi­cials said.

The Vic­to­ri­ous request­ed the assis­tance of a near­by Chi­nese gov­ern­ment ves­sel, at which time the fish­ing ves­sels depart­ed, Whit­man said.

He did not com­ment on the motive of the Chi­nese ves­sels. “That requires you to get inside the heads of the mariners out there,” he said. “What is clear is that it is unsafe and dan­ger­ous behav­ior, and it needs to be addressed. We do not want the mariners of any of the ves­sels out there in jeop­ardy.”

One Chi­nese ves­sel approached with­in 30 yards of the Vic­to­ri­ous, offi­cials said. “They are clear­ly demon­strat­ing unsafe sea­man­ship,” Whit­man said. “As we have in pre­vi­ous inci­dents, we’ll be devel­op­ing a way for­ward to deal with this diplo­mat­i­cal­ly.”

On March 8, five Chi­nese ves­sels sur­round­ed the USNS Impec­ca­ble as it was con­duct­ing oper­a­tions 80 nau­ti­cal miles off Hainan Island. There have been oth­er inci­dents where Chi­nese ves­sels oper­at­ed in an unsafe man­ner around U.S. ocean sur­veil­lance ships.

“It’s in everybody’s inter­est to ensure that safe pro­ce­dures on the seas are fol­lowed,” Whit­man said. “This was clear­ly well into inter­na­tion­al waters.”

Mil­i­tary ves­sels are not sub­ject to coastal state juris­dic­tion and do not require the pri­or con­sent of the coastal state for activ­i­ty in the exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zone.

Source: U.S. Depart­ment of Defense; Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)