Two defense officials said there have been four incidents in the past month in which Chinese-flagged fishing vessels maneuvered too close to two unarmed ships staffed by civilians and used by the Pentagon to do underwater surveillance and submarine hunting missions. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss some of the incidents and details that the Pentagon has not yet released.
The Pentagon did release a brief statement on the latest incident in which two Chinese fishing vessels came to within 30 yards of the USNS Victorius Friday as it was operating in the Yellow Sea.
Also, this is a little odd:
After incidents in March that included similar though less aggressive Chinese maneuvers, the Pentagon protested to Beijing officials and issued a strong public statement calling the Chinese actions harassment.
But on Tuesday, Whitman declined to characterize what the Chinese vessels were trying to do, saying only that their actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”
Asked why the tone of the U.S. statement was muted this time, he said: “We will be developing a way forward to deal with this diplomatically.”
Chinese harassment has worsened, and we respond by ratcheting down our protests. Let’s think about the incentive structure this creates.