Tuesday, March 10, 2009

China Says Activity by US Ship Illegal

10 March

China is denying accusations that a U.S. Navy mapping ship was harassed by Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, and accused the American ship of breaking international law.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. claim is totally inaccurate and wrong. Ma added that the U.S. ship violated both international law and Chinese regulations.

The U.S. government says China violated international law and accused the Chinese navy of "reckless" and "unprofessional" behavior.

A US Navy file photo of the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable, 09 Mar 2009
A US Navy file photo of the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable, 09 Mar 2009
U.S. military officials say the USNS Impeccable was towing sonar equipment to monitor submarines when it was forced to make an emergency stop in international waters Sunday about 120 kilometers off China's Hainan island.

The U.S. Defense Department says the Chinese sailors maneuvered within eight meters of U.S. vessel during the incident.

U.S. military officials also say the incident on Sunday capped what was a series of increasingly aggressive acts by Chinese ships.

It is unclear what impact the incident will have on U.S.-China relations. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is scheduled to be in Washington this week for meetings with U.S. officials.

Diplomats on both sides have already issued protests over the incident.

China has asked the United States to not violate its territorial boundaries. But, U.S. diplomats say American naval ships will continue to operate in international waters. Washington says it is willing to discuss the issue with Beijing.

U.S. officials say the Impeccable radioed the Chinese ships to request safe passage out of the area. They say two of the vessels responded by blocking the Impeccable's path and dropping wood into the water, forcing the U.S. ship to make an emergency stop.

They say the Chinese sailors also tried to hook on to cables used by the Impeccable to tow sonar equipment designed to monitor submarines.

The Pentagon said the Impeccable's crew sprayed water from the ship's fire hoses at one of the approaching Chinese vessels. Chinese sailors on the patrol boat responded by stripping to their underwear.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

See also:

USNS Impeccable

A short remember: the 2001 Hainan incident

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