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China, US Discuss LFAS in China EEZ

News, Sonar Comments Off on China, US Discuss LFAS in China EEZ

During bilateral meetings on maritime safety, China asked the US to phase out surveillance activity using Low-Frequency Active Sonar near its coast.  Over the past year, there have been five incidents in which Chinese ships (Naval and fishing boats) harassed the USNS Impeccable, one of two US ships equipped with LFAS, and other Navy ships.  The Chinese object to surveillance activity within its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), which extends 200 miles from each country’s coast; the US contends that such activity is only barred within the 12-mile territorial waters zone.

USNS Impeccable (US Navy photo)

USNS Impeccable (US Navy photo)

Navy survey ships were harassed five times this year by Chinese naval and civilian vessels as well as military aircraft in the South China Sea and Yellow Sea – in one case 75 miles south of Hainan island, the location of a strategic Chinese Navy base which reportedly houses ballistic missile submarines. Beijing said at the time that the unarmed Impeccable, was carrying out “illegal surveying” in its EEZ, violating Chinese and international laws. The U.S. Navy says the Impeccable is designed to detect quiet foreign diesel and nuclear-powered submarines and to map the seabed for future antisubmarine warfare purposes.

The key bone of contention is that the Chinese do not accept that the Impeccable’s activities fall under recognized right of navigation in EEZ waters; the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides for “freedom of navigation and overflight” in EEZs. It says military activities inside EEZs must be “peaceful” and must not harm the coastal state’s environment or economic resources. Read the rest of this entry »

China Continues Pushback Against Lurking LFAS Ship

News, Sonar Comments Off on China Continues Pushback Against Lurking LFAS Ship

Throughout the spring, China has been actively complaining about the presence of the USNS Impeccable off its coast (see earlier AEInews coverage).  This week, the “Bejing Review,” an English-language weekly, ran a story on the controversy, playing the environmental card in its efforts to reach in international audience, though some of its examples confused mid-frequency sonar-related strandings with the LFAS system, which has not been associated with any known strandings (though monitoring is nearly impossible, given its very long range), and falsely claims that sonar training was banned off the California Coast and that the Navy discontinued sonar training off Hawaii.  The story reports that a humpback whale was found stranded near Hong Kong “not long after”  the Impeccable had been driven away, though no details are included about any investigation into the causes of the stranding.

The Impeccable is one of the US’s two ships equipped with Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS), both of which are deployed in the western Pacific to monitor 
Chinese and North Korean submarines.  In addition to harassing the Impeccable (which both emits LFAS signals and receives echoes on its SURTASS towed array of hydrophones), Chinese Navy and fishermen have dogged  the USNS Victorious, one of several other US ships that can receive LFAS echoes on their own SURTASS arrays.

USNS Impeccable

USNS Impeccable

China maintains that US warships must receive permission to travel in China’s Exclusive Read the rest of this entry »