Navy con­firms bat­tle group failed to de­tect China sub U.S. de­fenses to be re­viewed

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Bill Gertz

Navy of­fi­cials on Nov. 13 con­firmed that an air­craft car­rier bat­tle group failed to de­tect a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine that sur­faced within weapons range of the USS Kitty Hawk. Anti-sub­ma­rine de­fenses for the car­rier bat­tle group will be re­viewed as a re­sult, they said.

“It was not de­tected,” said one Navy of­fi­cial of the en­counter with a Chi­nese diesel-pow­ered at­tack sub­ma­rine. “And we’re con­cerned about that, ob­vi­ously.”

The Chi­nese Song-class at­tack sub­ma­rine sur­faced near the car­rier in deep wa­ters off Ok­i­nawa on Oct. 26. It was armed with wake-hom­ing tor­pe­dos and an­ti­ship cruise mis­siles.

The of­fi­cials said it was un­usual for the sub­ma­rine to be op­er­at­ing in deep ocean wa­ters, but the in­ci­dent was not like the April 2001 col­li­sion of a U.S. EP-3 sur­veil­lance air­craft and Chi­nese F8 jet that rup­tured mil­i­tary ties.

“We were op­er­at­ing in in­ter- na­tional wa­ters, and they were op­er­at­ing in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters,” the of­fi­cial said. “From that stand­point, no­body was en­dan­ger­ing any­body. No­body felt threat­ened.”

How­ever, other de­fense of­fi­cials said the sub­ma­rine sur­fac­ing was a provoca­tive ac­tion by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, which has placed a high pri­or­ity on prac­tic­ing anti-air­craft-car­rier op­er­a­tions against U.S. car­ri­ers and war­ships in prepa­ra­tion for a pos­si­ble fu­ture con­flict over Tai­wan.

The car­rier was not en­gaged in anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare ex­er­cises at the time and thus did not have ac­tive pa­trols for sub­marines, the Navy of­fi­cial said. As a re­sult, sub­ma­rine de­fenses for the car­rier and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing war­ships will be re­viewed, he said.

The sub­ma­rine was spot­ted by car­rier-based air­craft con­duct­ing rou­tine sur­veil­lance.

The sub­ma­rine en­counter also took U.S. intelligence agen­cies by sur­prise be­cause of years of analy­ses that con­tinue to por­tray a be- nign China, said a de­fense of­fi­cial.

“Our China an­a­lysts ap­peared to be stunned that China would shadow a U.S. car­rier as far away as Ok­i­nawa,” the de­fense of­fi­cial said.

The Ja­pan-based Kitty Hawk and as­so­ci­ated war­ships are the only Asia-based bat­tle group and would be the first to re­spond to a cri­sis con­cern­ing Tai­wan, which China has threat­ened with force in the past.

The en­counter also was un­usual be­cause Chi­nese sub­marines nor­mally do not op­er­ate in deep wa­ters, both of­fi­cials said.

“From our stand­point, [. . . ] it shows that they con­tinue to de­velop blue-wa­ter ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” the Navy of­fi­cial said.

Pen­tagon and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials ini­tially de­clined to dis­cuss any­thing about the sub­ma­rine in­ci­dent, claim­ing de­tails were clas­si­fied. Some de­tails were then dis­closed af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported the en­counter in Nov. 13 edi­tions.

Dis­clo­sure of the sub­ma­rine en­counter comes as the U.S. Pa­cific Fleet com­man­der, Adm. Gary Roug­head, is visit­ing China for meet­ings with Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

A Pa­cific Fleet spokesman said Adm. Roug­head could not be reached Nov. 13 on whether he planned to raise the sub­ma­rine en­counter dur­ing talks with the Chi­nese.

Adm. Roug­head told re­porters in Bei­jing on Nov. 13 that he hopes to bet­ter un­der­stand the in­ten­tions be­hind China’s naval buildup dur­ing his week­long visit.

“When asked if the PLA navy is a threat, I’ve been on the record as say­ing no,” the fourstar ad­mi­ral said, re­fer­ring to Chi­nese forces, the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army. “But I re­ally would like to know what the in­tent is in some of the de­vel­op­ments that I see in the PLA navy.”

Adm. Roug­head is in China as the U.S. and Chi­nese mil­i­taries con­duct a joint search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tion ex­er­cise.

The visit is part of an am­bi­tious pro­gram be­ing pro­moted by the com­man­der of U.S. forces in the Pa­cific, Adm. William J. Fal­lon, to de­velop closer ties with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

The pro­gram has been plagued by a lack of rec­i­proc­ity on the part of China’s mil­i­tary, which con­tin­ues to refuse U.S. mil­i­tary vis­i­tors to key mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties or to ob­serve mil­i­tary ex­er­cise. By con­trast, the U.S. mil­i­tary has given Chi­nese mil­i­tary vis­i­tors ac­cess to sen­si­tive U.S. fa­cil­i­ties and mil­i­tary ex­er­cises.

Also, China is con­tin­u­ing to block U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials from visit­ing a se­cret un­der­ground com­mand cen­ter in Bei­jing known as the West­ern Hills.

Adm. Roug­head was sched­uled to meet Chi­nese navy com­man­der Vice Ad­mi­ral Wu Shengli and the com­man­der of the South China Sea Fleet. Those talks could shed light on China’s ag­gres­sive naval buildup.

“Clearly, the growth in the ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity of the navy since I’ve first been ex­posed to it in the ‘90s, the abil­ity to go into the blue wa­ter is very, very clear,” he said. “I look for­ward to hav­ing dis­cus­sions about what the vi­sion is and per­haps what some of the op­er­at­ing doc­trine might be.”

William Trip­plett, a for­mer Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee staff spe­cial­ist on China, said the fail­ure to track the sub­ma­rine was alarm­ing.

“China’s track­ing of the Kitty Hawk, un­de­tected by U.S. Navy anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare as­sets, is a shock­ing de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

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