Washington, Mar.10 (ANI): Pentagon and US Navy officials have lodged a strong protest with the Chinese Government over the latter's aggressive shadowing of a U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship in international waters Sunday.
Calling for greater respect for maritime law, a Pentagon statement claimed that five Chinese vessels "surrounded" the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea and closed within 50 feet of it.
The statement also claimed that Chinese crew members waved Chinese flags and told personnel of the USNS Impeccable to leave the area.
In response, Impeccable sprayed water out of fire hoses at one of the vessels, but the Chinese crew stripped to their underwear as their ship "continued closing to within 25 feet," the Pentagon said.t that point, Impeccable used a bridge-to-bridge radio to communicate its intent to move on. But two of the Chinese vessels stopped directly in the path of the U.S. ship, forcing it to conduct an emergency stop.
The incident occurred about 75 miles south of Hainan Island, not far from where two Chinese fighters collided with a U.S. surveillance aircraft in international airspace in 2001, a few months after President Bush took office.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. Navy will "continue to operate in those international waters, and we expect the Chinese to observe international law around there."
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has lodged a formal protest with China's Foreign Ministry over Sunday's incident.
Senior Defense Department officials met yesterday with a Chinese defense attachi at the Pentagon to reiterate the objection, according to a defense official.
Under international law, the U.S. military can conduct activities "in waters beyond the territorial sea of another state without prior notification or consent" including in an exclusive economic zone of another country, said Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman.
Navy ships and aircraft routinely operate in the area where the incident took place, Upton said.
The Impeccable and another ocean surveillance ship have been targeted five times in the last week, the Pentagon said, for "increasingly aggressive conduct" by Chinese ships and aircraft. (ANI)