The Victorious is one of the five ocean surveillance ships that are part of the 25 ships in Military Sealift Command’s Special Mission Ships Program.
The vessel was conducting routine operations 170 miles off the coast of China when two Chinese fishing vessels approached, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
“This was an incident where a couple of Chinese fishing vessels maneuvered close to the Victorious in what was an unsafe manner,” Whitman said.
The Victorious took defensive measures as the vessels got close. The Victorious crew sounded the ship’s danger alarms and manned fire hoses. They sprayed water at the Chinese vessels, but did not hit them, officials said.
The Victorious requested the assistance of a nearby Chinese government vessel, at which time the fishing vessels departed, Whitman said.
He did not comment on the motive of the Chinese vessels. “That requires you to get inside the heads of the mariners out there,” he said. “What is clear is that it is unsafe and dangerous behavior, and it needs to be addressed. We do not want the mariners of any of the vessels out there in jeopardy.”
One Chinese vessel approached within 30 yards of the Victorious, officials said. “They are clearly demonstrating unsafe seamanship,” Whitman said. “As we have in previous incidents, we’ll be developing a way forward to deal with this diplomatically.”
On March 8, five Chinese vessels surrounded the USNS Impeccable as it was conducting operations 80 nautical miles off Hainan Island. There have been other incidents where Chinese vessels operated in an unsafe manner around U.S. ocean surveillance ships.
“It’s in everybody’s interest to ensure that safe procedures on the seas are followed,” Whitman said. “This was clearly well into international waters.”
Military vessels are not subject to coastal state jurisdiction and do not require the prior consent of the coastal state for activity in the exclusive economic zone.