|Naval ship that Chinese harassed was a surveillance ship full of civilian
U.S. says Chinese vessels harassed Navy ship
The United States on Monday urged China to observe international maritime rules after the Pentagon said five
Chinese ships, including a naval vessel, harassed a U.S. Navy ship in international waters.
The Chinese vessels "shadowed and aggressively manoeuvred in dangerously close proximity" to the USNS
Impeccable on Sunday, with one vessel coming within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of the U.S. ship, a Defence
Department statement said.
The American ship, an unarmed ocean surveillance vessel with a crew of civilian contractors, was conducting
routine operations in the South China Sea 75 miles (120 km) south of Hainan Island, the Pentagon said.
"Our ships operate fairly regularly in international waters where these incidents took place," White House
spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news conference.
"We are going to continue to operate in those international waters and we expect the Chinese to observe
international laws around them."
The U.S. embassy in Beijing lodged a weekend protest with the Chinese government, State Department
spokesman Robert Wood said. U.S. defence policy officials on Monday also reiterated the protest to China's
defence attache in Washington.
"The unprofessional manoeuvres 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
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 Defence 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 behaviour, 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).