Saturday, March 14, 2009

DoD: USNS Impeccable 'Did Not Violate Law'

Via Janes' Information Group -

A US Military Sealift Command surveillance ship that jostled with five Chinese vessels in the South China Sea on 8 March did not violate international laws, according to the US Department of Defense (US DoD).

A Pentagon official told Jane's on 11 March: "USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS 23) is a surveillance ship that looks for underwater threats. We feel that we were conducting legal military operations in accordance with international law."

Crewed by civilians, Impeccable is equipped with an active low-frequency towed array with a series of modules, each housing two high-powered transducers. The DoD stated that the ship was carrying out routine bottom mapping when Chinese sailors attempted to snatch the array, then circled around the 5,370-ton ship, forcing it to stop.

The Chinese vessels comprised a naval intelligence-gathering ship, a fisheries patrol vessel, an Oceanographic Administration vessel and two trawlers.

The incident took place approximately 75 miles off Hainan Island, where China has built an underground nuclear submarine base. Jane's revealed the existence of the base, at Sanya, in a report in April 2008.

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