US-Chinese Anti-Submarine Cat and Mouse Game in South China Sea

The Chinese military harassment of a U.S. submarine surveillance vessel Sunday occurred only 75 miles from China’s growing naval base near Yulin on Hainan Island.

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated 1:50 P.M., 3/10/09]

The incident that unfolded in the South China Sea Sunday, where the U.S. Navy says five Chinese ships harassed the U.S. submarine surveillance vessel USNS Impeccable, appears to be part of a wider and dangerous cat and mouse game between U.S. and Chinese submarines and their hunters.

News media reports cite Pentagon reports of half a dozen other incidents just within the past week in which U.S. surveillance vessels were “subjected to aggressive behavior, including dozens of fly-bys by Chinese Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft.”

The latest incident allegedly occurred in international waters only 75 miles south of a budding naval base near Yulin on Hainan Island from where China has started operating new nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines. The U.S. Navy on its part is busy collecting data on the submarines and seafloor to improve its ability to detect the submarines in peacetime and more efficiently hunt them in case of war.

USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23)

The USNS Impeccable was designed specifically as a platform for the SURTASS towed array and its Low Frequency Array upgrade.

An Impeccable “Civilian Crew”

The U.S. Navy’s description of the incident states that “a civilian crew mans the ship, which operates under the auspices of the Military Sealift Command.” Yet as one of five ocean surveillance ships, the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS 23) has the important military mission of using its array of both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track submarines. The USNS Impeccable works directly with the Navy’s fleets, and in 2007 operated with the three-carrier strike battle group in Valiant Shield 07 exercise in the Western Pacific.

USNS Impeccable is equipped with the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS), a passive linear underwater surveillance array attached to a tow cable. SURTASS was developed as a floating submarine detection system for deep waters, and the Navy wants to add an active Low Frequency Array (LFA) to improve long-range detection of submarines in shallow waters.

SURTASS LFA Deployment

The SURTASS LFA passive-active surveillance system is designed to detect submarines and surface ships at long range in deep and shallow waters.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Navy, the USNS Impeccable is “designed specifically as a platform for the SURTASS towed array and its LFA adjunct.”

New Chinese Nuclear Submarines at Yulin Naval Base

Among Chinese submarines the USNS Impeccable was monitoring is probably the Shang-class (Type-093) nuclear-powered attack submarine, a new class China is building to replace the old Han-class, and which has recently been seen at the Yulin base.

A commercial satellite image taken September 15, 2008, shows two Shang-class submarines present at the base, the first time – to my knowledge – that two Shang-class SSNs have been seen at the base at the same time.

Shang-Class Submarines at Yulin Naval Base September 2008

Two new Shang-class (Type-093) were photographed at the naval base near Yulin on Hainan Island in mid-September 2008, the first time two Shang-class SSNs are known to have been present at the same time.

An earlier image from February 2008 showed a Jin-class (Type-094) ballistic missile submarine at the Hainan base for the first time. The Jin-class is not visible on the later image. China has been reducing its submarine fleet by replacing old boats with fewer modern ones. The submarines normally stay close to shore, but in 2008 sailed on 12 longer patrols – twice as many as in 2007.

Time For an Incident Agreement

The incident begs the question who or at what level in the Chinese government the harassment in international waters was ordered. The incident will make life harder for those in the Obama administration who want to ease the military pressure on U.S.-Chinese relations, and easier for hardliners to argue their case.

For both countries the Sunday incident and the many other incidents that have occurred recently are reminders that the time is long overdue for an agreement to regulate military operations. Following a break in response to U.S. military sales to Taiwan, U.S.-Chinese mid-level military-to-military talks were scheduled to resume last month, and the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating, said “nascent initiatives” were underway to draw up some “rules of the road” to address some of these issues.

Absent a substantial agreement, building on the 1998 US-Chinese Military Maritime Safety Agreement (which already includes discussions on “interpretation of the Rules of the Nautical Road and avoidance of accidents-at-sea”) and the 1972 US-Russian Incidents at Sea Agreement, incidents like the USNS Impeccable incident will continue as a serious irritant and source of mistrust between China and the United States, a situation neither country nor other nations in the region can afford.

Additional resources: US-Chinese Military Maritime Safety Agreement (1998) | US-Russian Incidents at Sea Agreement (1972) | Secrecy News Blog: U.S., China, and Incidents at Sea

38 thoughts on “US-Chinese Anti-Submarine Cat and Mouse Game in South China Sea

  1. [Edited] Excuse me please, but how would the US react if the Chinese would openly spy on Kings Bay, Georgia? Fly bys and close encounters are the MINIMUM. I’m quite certain it would even come to an “accidental” collision with a US cruiser. Not even all US allies would tolerate such behavior, remember the USS Liberty!

    And you folks sure know that the same kind of surveillance could be done by a Seawolf class sub, and much more discreetly. So who in the Pentagon is actively playing foreign policy games, what is he up to, and does he have authorization for his dangerous actions? These are the questions you folks should think about!

    Reply: Some readers have indicated that the Chinese actions are understandable given the sensitivity of the installations on Hainan Island. I agree, but that certainly doesn’t justify violating international law. The US and Soviet Union used to have similar skirmishes during the Cold War when Soviet spy ships were lurking off US naval bases and US ships were lurking off Soviet bases. That resulted in the Incidents at Sea Agreement, which Beijing and Washington need to copy to guide their interactions at sea.

    This is not an us-versus-them issue or who is most to blame, but about regulating military operations so they don’t mess up relations and increase distrust. HK

  2. The Chinese official response is equally enigmatic, accusing the Americans performing illegal activities in China’s “Exclusive Economic Zones”. Since neither party wants the world and their citizens to known exactly what they are doing, the possibility of reaching a gentlemen’s agreement is very slight, perhaps only after China performs similar actions in “international waters” 75 miles off San Diego or Norfolk. United States have so many forward deployed naval facilities around the world. Those near China would suffice too. The Chinese actions seem rather childish, and thus temporary. How difficult would it be to jam these passive and active sonars? Before the two countries can behave like strategic partners on the same bed, China may have to play rock ‘n’ roll on the high sea to hide its subs. As for the chain of command, probably neither President Obama nor President Hu knows about it beforehand. The generals at much lower pay grades have decided for them that it is in the best interest of their respective nations to play Tom and Jerry, until a big mess is made.

  3. I live on the east coast of the US and although I imagine submarines from many countries are patrolling out there under the water, it would bother me if I heard Chinese Naval vessels were patrolling along our coast. Even unarmed ones. I’m not defending the actions of the Chinese, but I would expect our Navy or Coast Guard to confront foreign Naval vessels patrolling off our coast.

  4. You can tell by Johnnie’s post thart he is on the East Coast, its more of “we are at fault” – naturally.

    The report says that the US vessels were harrassed. Does Johnnie think we should harrass vehicles off our coast or investigate what they are doing there.

    It too bad we don’t hasve the ability to line up behind our military, I thought they were protecting us.

    Good Luck US Navy keep up the good work !

  5. Gray, How do you know that the Chinese are not spying on King’s Bay? I am a retired 30 Year Navy Master Chief Operations Specialist and I can tell you this surveillance happens all the time by everyone. You better hope the USN keeps it up. There is nothing more important than knowing where Subs are, a good deal of them are designed to carry Nukes!

    One more note, LFA ships can detect subs at a greater range than the Seawolf class sub….. and Obama better know where the Chinese, Russian (insert country) subs are…I am pretty sure he gets briefed by the Joint chiefs and if not that is pretty scary.

  6. This a perfect example of the US military still practicing Cold War techniques and pursuing Cold War goals. Yes, China has an active and considerable Navy, but they are not a significant threat to the United States. The missile launching capabilities are a concern, but there simply is no navy on the planet that could take on the US Navy in a blue water campaign. Therefore, having a USN or USNS ships tagging around the PRC Coast is a frightening waste of time and money.

    Best Regards

  7. During the 1980’s and early 90s a Russian AGI (intelligence ship) would anchor 3 miles off the coast of San Diego for months gathering intelligence and never get touched by U.S. forces. It would interfere with ASW exercises and cause communication problems for U.S. forces. If we can allow it, then so should other countries. The recognized limit for international waters from a country’s coast is 12 NM. If the ship is outside this zone it should not be touched.

  8. If I’m not mistaken, Russia/USSR routinely sent warships – not just mapping vessels – in the 90 miles between Cuba and Florida. to maintain their right to, if none other.

    The Communist Party of China is incorrectly trying to intimidate others into accepting their dominance of the South China Sea, using the excuse of an exclusive economic zone as if it were a no-sail zone, and hoping they can intimidate people into accepting it. Same with the Taiwan Straights; and neither can be accepted.

  9. Gray, et al,

    Are you not old enough to recall the Soviet AGIs that were ALWAYS on station outside our military harbors AT THE 3 MILE LIMIT? Outbound and inbound subs had to go around them to get into port. This happened with all of our allies during the Cold War and we just had to put up with it. C’mon. The SURTASS ship is in international waters, not exploiting China’s self-declared resource zone–just taking environmental readings and listening. I’m not saying it isn’t for military purposes. Of course it is. But there isn’t a darn thing the Chinese can legally do about it. And by the way, these ships do things that a SSN cannot do. So forget about being sneaky and using a sub.

    The Chinese are clearly in violation of International Rules of the Nautical Road. They are where the Soviets were back in the 60s, beginning to get their deep sea legs and showing off. They will learn the hard way that there will be severe international repercussions if they don’t behave.

    The worst thing we could do is pull our ship out of there to “keep from causing an incident.”

  10. As noted the US has other more discrete ways of observing and tracking Chinese SSBNs, they chose a very overt option. Maybe the general did not have another option. But I think international politics is a game of chess you need to see the move three steps ahead, the effective objective. I see this as a way to get China to the table to agree to an ‘incidents at sea’ MOU. That way an agreement to not spy on each other’s bases can be agreed to by the Chinese. Since the US is more concerned with China entering the Blue Water domain and being capable of doing similar action on forward deployed US bases. If the Chinese agree, they will limit their abilities to gather i telligence, while the US will maontain their capabilities. As was earlier mentioned the US can us a Seawolf class sub, tehcnology China cannot match.

  11. As a vet of the ASW games in the Cold War, I agree with CDR_Ret (as am I) on the old Soviet tactics, but those vessels were also present at exercises and tailed carrier battle groups constantly. That’s why incidents-at-sea agreements are important in this case too.
    And for those on the east coast, I guess they’d be shocked to find out how close Soviet ballistic missile and attach subs patrolled to our shores too. I flew P3 missions in the Atlantic, and without the spadework of ships like Impeccable, we would’ve had a much tougher time.

  12. Btw isn’t this SURTASS sonar the same that is suspected of beaching whales wherever it goes ?

    Reply: Indeed, although not SURTASS but the combined SURTASS LFA. The US Navy has this web site to explain why it is not a problem. HK

  13. to CDR_Ret

    What has been done during Cold War must stay in the past. This war has ended. Now we are in the 21st Century and globalization. We are not obliged to begin a Cold War with China. We are not on a day-to-day confrontation with this country as we were with the Soviet block.

    If the Soviet did overtly spied off US coasts, the Chinese don’t do that, they have not a single AGI sitting off the US military harbours . Why the USN ships need to be so agressive by not only in so openly spying, but also in physically endangering chinese subs with their towed arrays laying in the wter without International Notice to Mariners, which is the international agreed way of avoiding interferences in International waters?

    For an ouside observer, it’s look like their is two different US Foreign Policies with China, one trying to consider it as a partner Nation, the other one to consider it as a military adversary. This needs some clarification between DOD and DOS.

  14. Xavier,

    There is not going to be a “clarification” nor should there be — the relationship between the PRC and the US will remain complicated and multi-dimensional. China is a potential adversary, it is also an economically critical nation to the US.

    Accordingly the US will aim to maintain politically and economically cordial relations while gathering encyclopedias of intelligence and military data so that it’s ready in the event of a turn for the worse.

    No doubt Chinese sub captains are well aware of towed arrays. None of us knows how much espionage is or isn’t conducted by Chinese vessels off American coasts.

  15. I see, FAS censors its comment section.

    Reply: We don’t sensor certain views or opinions but as publishers of the FAS Strategic Security Blog reserve the right to limit the number of comments that are primarily opinions, reactions, or derogatory statements in order to foster a discussion that is about factual information and analysis. If you want to contribute a comment that follows those guidelines, we’ll be happy to post it. HK

  16. A SURTASS ship in full passive mode is not a hazard to anyone unless they are foolish enough to steam directly under one. I am aware of only one time in the entire Cold War where this happened–a Soviet Victor III became entangled in the USS McCloy’s towed array in 1983, and that is because they were stupidly operated.

    There is no need for an INCSEA type agreement because the International RoR already cover the situation of ships conducting operations that restrict their ability to maneuver. The Chinese were conducting illegal actions and could be cited in an international court if the US chooses to do so.

    I guess my question for the bleeding hearts is: How far away from the Chinese coastline is far enough? That is why we have territorial water boundaries. China’s is 12 NM (see 75 NM is far enough away to be legal with no questions asked. No one is confronting anyone. For all we know, the ship may be just doing bottom profiling. Most of the oceans remain unmapped to any detail and that is one of these ships’ jobs–making maps.

  17. Claiming the USNS Impeccable was conducting ocean surveys could violate Chinese EEZ rights, referring to article 56 of UNCLOS, depending how is considered this activity as maritime scientific research or not:

    Extract from UNCLOS Article 56

    “Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone

    1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

    (b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

    (ii) marine scientific research;”

    Details are given in UNCLOS part XIII.

    This does not authorize fishing vessels to harass USNS Impeccable but is consistent with the request to leave the area made the day before this incident by a Chinese patrol vessel.

    The US haven’t ratify the UNCLOS, but are willing to do so, as Secretary Clinton stated on January 13th, 2009, speaking at her Senate confirmation hearing , “that ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would be a priority for her.”

  18. Xavier,

    “Extract from UNCLOS Article 56

    “Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone

    1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

    (b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

    (ii) marine scientific research;”

    Details are given in UNCLOS part XIII.

    This does not authorize fishing vessels to harass USNS Impeccable but is consistent with the request to leave the area made the day before this incident by a Chinese patrol vessel.

    There is one problem with this; the Chinese are claiming an expanding area that infringes into not only international waters, but also waters belonging to other nations. This is an aggressive action initiated by the Chinese that must be monitored. Keeping in mind their poor human rights record,

    For anyone else who believes we should not be keeping an eye on the Chinese, keep in mind they spy on us and have tried to undermine us in many areas, even leasing off-shore drilling sites from the Cubans and attempting to drill from those points into US oil reserves. Remember also, that during the Clinton administration, the Chinese managed to infiltrate sensitive areas of the US. You might recall one Chinese agent managed to steal a hard drive from Los Alamos containing some of our nuclear secrets.

    We need to increase our efforts, not lessen them.

    Reply: Thanks for reminding us of what international law actually says. The particular section that defines the rights and obligations in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is here.

    As for the rest of your comment, it seems to do little to resolve this incident. The human rights issue is not directly related, and China and the United States both spy on each other. Some forms of spying is actually helpful to the extent it helps understand and predict why a potential adversary does what it is doing. Stealing secrets is another matter. But I’m sure we’re not entirely innocent on that front. The challenge is how to avoid using the other side’s faults as an excuse to walk up the escalation ladder but to figure out a way to defuse the crisis and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. HK

  19. All of these comments are good because we can say them and not worry about repercussions from our government.

    But to the person who made the Liberty comment. It should be noted that the Israeli government attacked the Liberty not a communist country. Several people I know served on board her and lost friends in the attack. They would be appalled to think we would ever give up the capabilities that the vessels like these give the US.

    I believe that the USN AGOS class of ships performs a vital role in information collection and allowing the JCS to make the right choices for our military.

    The military serve to support and defend our government while allowing those who haven’t served to make comments and rumors about how things could be. Go spend 6 months on one of these ships and you will have your eyes opened as to what it really takes to keep you free.

    Every one of the members and former members of the services working in scientific information collection understand when they go places that they may be harassed and can not retaliate. Let the politicians handle those events. Some of our greatest under water mappings for navigation aids have come from this group of people.

  20. [Edited] The 12-nautical-mile rule was established in the USA-USSR incident at the sea agreement in 1972, so guess what? China is not a party to it. Thus it’s just ridiculous to say China SHOULD observe a rule to which no Chinese signature can be found!

    The area where the “incident” occurred was a gray area: it’s oustide the 12 nautical mile territorial water, but INSIDE the 200 nautical miles EEZ. Even the 1972 US-USSR agreement did not say you could do whatever you like in the EEZ. The Chinese patrol boat had no way to exclude the possibility that the foreign ship was surveying the ocean floor for mineral resources for instance, which the UN convention does NOT allow, short of boarding the ship and inspecting it. That, by the way, could constitute an act of war, as a ship flying a nation’s flag is considered a piece of floating territory.

    So perhaps the best way is for China and USA to negotiate a new rule that governs maritime activities in the EEZ, but that’s easier to say than done….

    Reply: Actually, the 12-nautical mile territorial rule was established by the multilateral United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) from December 1982. The 1972 US-Soviet agreement you refer to is the bilateral Incidents at Sea Agreement.

    China signed UNCLOS in 1972 and ratified it on June 7, 1996. Since then, however, China has claimed jurisdiction over several islands in the South China Sea (claims that are disputed by Vietnam and the Philippines) and in 2006 issued the following declaration claiming ” sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the entire EEZ:

    1. In accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the People’s Republic of China shall enjoy sovereign rights and jurisdiction over an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and the continental shelf.
    2. The People’s Republic of China will effect, through consultations, the delimitation of boundary of the maritime jurisdiction with the states with coasts opposite or adjacent to China respectively on the basis of international law and in accordance with the equitable principle.
    3. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms its sovereignty over all its archipelagoes and islands as listed in article 2 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone which was promulgated on 25 February 1992.
    4. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms that the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning innocent passage through the territorial sea shall not prejudice the right of a coastal state to request, in accordance with its laws and regulations, a foreign state to obtain advance approval from or give prior notification to the coastal state for the passage of its warships through the territorial sea of the coastal state.

    The international community has not accepted the Chinese claim which is in conflict with international law. The fact that China claims this area is irrelevant to international law. And even if China had not signed UNCLOS, that would not give it any right (other than its own claim) to harass anyone in international waters.

    For more information about international law, see UNCLOS background and UNCLOS status. HK

  21. And by the way, don’t forget the US Navy DID harass a Chinese cargo ship with the name Yinhe in 1993! CIA claimed that ship was transporting some dangerous chemicals to Iran, but a through inspection in Saudi Arabia, with US officials on site, found nothing whatsoever….

  22. “The US haven’t ratify the UNCLOS, but are willing to do so, as Secretary Clinton stated on January 13th, 2009, speaking at her Senate confirmation hearing , “that ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would be a priority for her.”

    The point is that the US hasn’t ratified the UNCLOS. So even if the US were in violation of the UNCLOS, it would not matter. The Impeccable had the right to be where it was and do what it was doing. The Chinese are claiming the ship was operating illegally (this is arguable, by the way) based on a law that they signed and the US didn’t.

    Reply: Thanks for reminding us that the U.S. hasn’t ratified USCLOS, and of course no country has the right to make a law that grabs jurisdiction over international waters. Here is what Secretary Clinton said:

    “[Senator] MURKOWSKI: Will ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty be a priority for you?

    CLINTON: Yes, it will be, and it will be because it is long overdue, Senator. The Law of the Sea Treaty is supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, environmental, energy, and business interests. I have spoken with some of our — our naval leaders, and they consider themselves to be somewhat disadvantaged by our not having become a party to the Law of the Sea.”

    Full transcrip is here. HK

  23. How you guys see UNCLOS’s Article 246 in this case?

    Article 246
    Marine scientific research in the exclusive economic zone
    and on the continental shelf
    1. Coastal States, in the exercise of their jurisdiction, have the right to
    regulate, authorize and conduct marine scientific research in their exclusive
    economic zone and on their continental shelf in accordance with the relevant
    provisions of this Convention.
    2. Marine scientific research in the exclusive economic zone and on the
    continental shelf shall be conducted with the consent of the coastal State……..

  24. Why was my responses deleted ?

    Reply: Given the large number of comments that are submitted, and our intention to focus the blog on analysis and factual information, we reserve the right to delete comments that are primarily opinions, reactions, or derogatory statements. If you want to contribute a comment that follows those guidelines, we’ll be happy to post it. HK

  25. HK, thank you for responding to my post.

    But it reads to me that we have been talking about two different things.

    No question that the territorial water of a nation is within the 12-nautical mile line. In fact, as I know, USA does not even recognize this. Instead, the official postion of the United States is a 2 nautical mile territorial line. This led to direct confrontation with the Soviet Union in the Black Sea during the Reagon years as I recall.

    As for the 1972 US-Soviet agreement, as you said, it’s a bilateral Incidents at Sea Agreement on what the countries could or could not DO along the 12 nautical mile line —- remember USA still does not recognize the 12 nautical mile line as territorial line TODAY, let alone back then. Therefore, the basis of the US Navy (and Air Force, etc, etc) to observe the “12-nautical mile rule” was this bilaterial aggreement, not US recognition of the 12 nautical mile line as territorial water. The fact is USA does NOT recongize that.

    Also, in addition to 12 nautical mile territorial line, UNCLOS established the 200 nautical mile EEZ. What the countries can or can not do in another country’s EEZ is a subject of hot dispute, all the more worse due to the fact that many EEZs overlap with each other as 200 nautical miles are pretty far away from the shore.

    The latest incident in South China Sea happened outside China’s territorial water, but within China’s EEZ. There’s no rule to govern the activities in this area. Repeat: no rule that both sides signed on and ratified.

    So, please, stop accusing people of violating international law, as the “legislation” has not even occured!

  26. To HGR

    Basically, you are right that U.S is not a signatory of UNCLOS, and U.S does not recognize coastal state’s right on EEZ. However, act against UNCLOS and even violate it will certainly diminish U.S image across international community. As Hilarry said U.S would ratify UNCLOS in the near future, it shows that U.S does believe and recognize UNCLOS in certain extent.

    Furthermore, do you aware that there is only U.S defending her espionage while her ASEAN allies did not support her even in mere verbal form? Undeniably, many ASEAN states also wish to get Chinese sub’s acoustic data, however, get it done properly and lawful would be a smart choice because smart power and soft power are seemed more important than hard power nowadays. For ASEAN states, they are worrying about the emerging of China’s power, but also doubting would U.S act ruthlessly just to gain or protect her so called U.S interest. Put it in this way, ASEAN states also afraid that U.S will use similar or modified tactics to spy their defense secret.

    So, act smart, not recklessly, then you will get the higher point of morality.

  27. I am a little confused by the photograph showing the Shang type submarine (type 093). They are supposed to be 110 meters in length (not 95-100 meters). How do you know those are Shang submarines? The older Han (type 091) class nuclear submarine is 95-100 meters in length. Where did you get your intelligence?

    Reply: The visible length is what’s above the water, so the Shang will appear shorter on a satellite photo than it actually is. HK

  28. Seawolf vs Impeccable for surveillance,
    Even if a Seawolf can do surveillance more discreetly, a Seawolf is a multi-BILLION dollar piece of equipment with a large military crew that is a weapon of war. The Impeccable is a multi-million dollar unarmed vessel with a civilian crew that is custom designed for long station keeping and doing surveillance.
    Surveillance is NOT a covert activity. It is openly conducted on the high seas by unarmed vessels and other types of equipment (like SOSUS arrays). It is not spying, it is monitoring the open oceans for submarine activity. I realize that the Chinese government considers 75 miles from shore to be their territory, but territorial waters are only 12 nm from shore.

  29. I am enclosing an old article from November of 2004 where the Chinese apologize because a technical glitch caused them to sail a submarine into a narrow channel directly into Japanese territorial waters, In case anyone has any doubts, it is completely impossible for a submarine to accidently make this kind of mistake,
    Re-emphasize that the 2004 incident was in “territorial” waters. It was not a piece of the “Japan’s EEZ” that Japan would rather not have surveillance ships sailing through.
    Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2004
    Beijing says tech glitch led to sub intrusion
    Staff writer
    China extended an apology Tuesday to Tokyo after admitting that one of
    its submarines intruded into Japan’s territorial waters off Okinawa
    last week, an incident it laid to “technical errors,” Japanese
    officials said. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei met Tuesday
    morning with Japanese Ambassador Koreshige Anami in Beijing and
    apologized for the sub intrusion, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki
    Hosoda told reporters in Tokyo. According to Hosoda, the vice minister
    did not give details of the “technical errors,” which the minister
    said took place during “the process of normal training.” The vice
    minister called the incident “regrettable,” a remark Tokyo interprets
    as an apology, Hosoda said.
    The Defense Agency will study if “technical errors” could lead a
    nuclear-powered submarine into the narrow channel between islands,
    Hosoda added. The sub, while running submerged, strayed Nov. 10 into
    Japanese waters near Ishigaki Island, roughly 400 km southwest of
    Okinawa Island. Japan initially refrained from directly blaming China.
    But on Friday, it started publicly criticizing Beijing and demanded an
    apology for the intrusion after confirming the sub was heading for
    Chinese territorial waters in the East China Sea. The incident came
    amid bilateral relations that have been strained over a series of
    issues, and the two countries were having difficulty arranging for a
    top-level dialogue between their leaders. Speaking to reporters
    earlier in the day, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed hope
    that a meeting can be arranged between him and Chinese President Hu
    Jintao later this month on the sidelines of the annual summit of the
    Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile. Koizumi told
    reporters that instead of using a diplomatic gripe as a reason for not
    holding a meeting, “We should hold it because we have a problem.”

  30. Share with you,

    According to Malaysia’s EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE ACT 1984, which sounds like this:

    16. (1) No marine scientific research may be conducted in the
    exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf without the
    express consent of and subject to conditions imposed by the
    (2) Subject to section 17, the Government shall give its consent
    where the marine scientific research would be carried out by any
    State or competent international organization for peaceful purposes
    and to increase scientific knowledge of the marine environment.

    Therefore, this is the reason why Malaysia did not support U.S in this case.

  31. Some of the postings let me infer that China aims to challenge US naval supremacy worldwide or even attempt to do the sort of seafloor mapping the Impeccable was fooling with.

    As noted here, Chinese submarines seem to be sticking close to shore, well within the perimeter of coastal defenses.

    I think some folks are reading the Chinese mindset wrong: they’re traders, not conquistadors. They’re way too thrifty to operate oversized armed forces. They will however, spend and do what it takes to defend their territorial integrity, including harassment of reconnaissance platforms outside the three or 12nm territorial water limit.

    Moreover, you have an issue of face: a surface ship is hard to ignore — one contributor suggests a Seawolf-class platform could have done the job more quietly. If this is a true, then we have a political move by the USN to undermine the White House. Personally, I don’t buy the argument that a Seawolf-class submarine, operating solo, would trigger more than close observation and carefully spooned-out harassment: the PLA simply does not have the outgoing militancy of its US counterpart.

  32. Every nation has the right and the basic need to protect it’s self, but there is a limit. I am an American and I know I would be awfully concerned and upset if China parked a “civilian” listening ship off our coast. Let there be no doubt, if the shoe where on the other foot we would be howling mad. We need to stop and rethink our defense goals. Otherwise we are going to find ourselves neck deep in rough seas.

    Just today it was announced that a Chinese submarine was able to penetrate our defense network and surface right next to the USS Kitty Hawk. So much for our technical superiority. Passed 13 surface ships and 2 Seawolf attack submarines. If this doesn’t cause the US to rethink it’s capabilities and that of the Chinese people nothing will and we will end up paying for it later on. Maybe even sooner than later.

    Reply: Where was it announced today that “a Chinese submarine was able to penetrate our defense network and surface right next to the USS Kitty Hawk….Passed 13 surface ships and 2 Seawolf attack submarines”? HK

  33. It is possible that the new class of super quiet Chinese submarines would be able to hit capital ships in the American CBGs in the forseeable future using torpedo-tube launched anti ship cruise missiles. It would be wise for the American to withdraw into their backyards before they suffer a huge embarassment similar to the Korean War.

    Reply: Not that we expect the missile to begin flying anytime soon. But I find it hard to see U.S. carrier battle groups suddenly being sitting ducks to Chinese torpedoes and cruise missiles after decades of Cold War where they were chased by Soviet submarines, battle group, and naval aviation. Russia’s newest and quietest Akula II class attack submarine was recently detected off the U.S. east coast, so when you say “super quiet Chinese submarines” I wonder how quiet you think they are. Not to belittle the Chinese capabilities and the difficulties of anti-submarine warfare, but I wonder what their battle capabilities actually are. HK

  34. [Edited] I believe the Chinese or any nation should be concerned in regards to any obvious intelligence gathering directed at specific military installations; however, current international laws specificly identify international waters. 75 miles out is considered international waters.

    Living in Seattle I can without any doubt say, as I have witnessed first-hand, that the Chinese and Russian governments operate military surveillance vessels within 11 miles from the Bangor submarine base and have actually crossed over in to US territorial waters on at least 2 occasions within the last 10 years. On all occasions the US Navy and or Coast Guard has boarded for “safety” inspections and has even in one case that I know of seized advanced sonar equipment from the vessels.

    So it’s the pot calling the kettle black so to speak. All countries conduct illict spying, but to what extent civillians never know.

    I would like to say that China has the right to protect their terrortories just as any country does. I find the whole Taiwan issue a thorn in the side of both the US and China. I mean how would the US feel if China sided with Alaska in breaking away from the union? Remember the US has had one civil war already where states have tried to leave the Union. I think if politicians stopped to reflex on issues before they pledge support, the world would be less complex.

    I am not a China apologist either. China has been allowed to break international laws pertaining to commerce for years. For one they are the only country on earth that does not have their currency valued as all other countries do on the international market; therefore, the Chinese currency is under valued which allows them a more than biais advantage pertaining to the marketing of their own goods and services.

    Reply: Your point about specific cases of Chinese and Russian operations near Bangor in the last 10 years is interesting. Can you reference to news articles or other material so we can learn more?

    Just a note on “international waters” and how far from shore they begin. Simply speaking it’s anything beyond 12 nautical miles (13.8 miles) from shore, but two other zones provide some national jurisdiction beyond national territorial waters: The Contiguous Zone extends 12 nautical miles beyond territorial waters, and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extends out to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (230 miles) from the mean low water mark. So true international waters only exist beyond the EEZ, which sometimes confuses some countries to make territorial claims beyond the 12 nautical miles territorial waters. HK

  35. [Edited] Even if China grows its naval capability into the blue seas, so what? Why do we have to assume that only US has the right to police international waters? Is it because it has a better regard on human right? Well, US’s human right claim is a joke. Historically and presently.

    Reply: All countries have the right to operate in international waters, regardless of their human rights record – China included. The issue is how growing Chinese naval capabilities will influence how Japan and other countries in the region see their own security affected by those capabilities, and what counter-measures they will develop in response. That could increase military competition and tension in the region and thus undermine everyone’s security. The challenge is how to develop a security framework in the region that limits military competition and increases the security for all countries. Got any ideas? HK

  36. [Edited] I was an anti-submarine operator from 1977 to 1992 on the S-3A/B aircraft. I also worked for the reasearch and development company that developed the SURTASS and TACTASS systems. In light of these comments it seems to me that the US has made a mistake taking the S-3 platform off the carriers as they are our best tactical defense of the carrier battle group not to diminish the roles of the SH-3 and other helo assets in these groups. It seems to me that ASW is here to stay and we should have never taken this asset our of our carrier groups they should have updated the S-3 into a more modern platform. I know for a fact both sides US and chinese as well as many other nations are operating submarines to exercise their sea command and control for thier nations. That being said it would be negligent of any nation not to monitor submarine activity in any way that they can. ASW has allways been a cat and mouse game with risk, although a few incidents have occured, the fact is that saftey of the seas and ships therein have had a good record overall.

    Also, here’s the link Chad was referring to, I believe. A Song class diesel electric boat hard to detect on batteries. They won that round. That gives creedence to my comment on the S-3 platform on our carriers.

  37. The U.S. has every right to be in international waters…but the Chinese have the right to shadow them…but some would call it harassment. If a Chinese sub was close to the American shores the U.S. would do the same. As for their track record, the U.S. is simply the aggressor; the Chinese at this time is just projecting power that they don’t really possess. I believe is just a policy to show their citizens that the CCP can withstand foreign invasion and thus are legitimate rulers. The CCP fears their people more then an actual foreign invasion.

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