March 10, 2009 in Nation/World

U.S. protests harassment by Chinese vessels

Pauline Jelinek And Anne Gearan Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Chinese ships surrounded and harassed a Navy mapping ship in international waters off China, at one point coming within 25 feet of the American boat and strewing debris in its path, the Defense Department said Monday.

The Obama administration said it would continue naval operations in the South China Sea, most of which China considers its territory, and protested to China about what it called reckless behavior that endangered lives.

At one point during the incident Sunday the unarmed USNS Impeccable turned fire hoses on an approaching Chinese ship in self defense, the Pentagon said. At another point a Chinese ship played chicken with the Americans, stopping dead in front of the Impeccable as it tried to sail away, forcing the civilian mariners to slam on the brakes.

“We view these as unprofessional maneuvers” and a violation of international law, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

A protest was lodged with the Chinese government by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing over the weekend and was repeated to a Chinese defense attache at a Pentagon meeting Monday.

In Beijing, Chinese officials did not immediately respond to voicemail messages and e-mail regarding the U.S. allegations.

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