CHINA BLINDED U.S. CREW

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

A Chi­nese war­ship fired a high­pow­ered beam of light that dis­rupted the vi­sion of crew mem­bers aboard a U.S. Navy sur­veil­lance ship op­er­at­ing in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters in 2008.

Ac­cord­ing to a newly re­leased State Depart­ment cable, the ap­par­ent blind­ing at­tack on the USNS Vic­to­ri­ous, an ocean sur­vey ship, oc­curred in the East China Sea.

“On March 8, 2008, [Chi­nese] Luhu-class DD112 shined a high-in­ten­sity, nar­row-beam white light at USNS Vic­to­ri­ous for ap­prox­i­mately 30 min­utes,” the cable, la­beled “se­cret,” said.

“The light was of such in­ten­sity that it tem­po­rar­ily im­paired the vis­ual acu­men of USNS Vic­to­ri­ous per­son­nel and thereby con­sti­tuted a haz­ard to nav­i­ga­tion.”

The in­ci­dent was out­lined in a State Depart­ment cable made pub­lic Aug. 30. It was never dis­closed by the Pen­tagon.

It could not be lear ned whether the light beam was a laser or high-pow­ered search­light. Navy and Pen­tagon spokesman had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

The East China Sea in­ci­dent ap­pears sim­i­lar to a laser at­tack car­ried out in 1997 by some­one aboard a Rus­sian mer­chant ship. The at­tack dam­aged the eyes of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly, who was con­duct­ing an aerial re­con­nais­sance mis­sion aboard a Cana­dian mil­i­tary helicopter over the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state’s Puget Sound.

That in­ci­dent also was kept se­cret un­til dis­closed by The Washington Times.

The cable stated that dur­ing the 2008 blind­ing, eight B-6 bombers flew near or over the Vic­to­ri­ous dur­ing a four-hour pe­riod that “par­tially over­lapped the in­tense il­lu­mi­na­tion of the Vic­to­ri­ous by the Luhu-class DD112.”

The bomber flights were as­sessed to be train­ing mis­sions and not a re­ac­tion to the ship’s ocean sur­vey. The U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand’s in­tel­li­gence cen­ter “could not com­pletely rule out that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary used USNS Vic­to­ri­ous as a train­ing op­por­tu­nity as the B-6 air­craft tran­sited the area,” the cable said.

The cable, dis­closed by the anti-se­crecy por­tal Wik­iLeaks, was sent by then-Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice to the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing in out­lin­ing a protest note on the in­ci­dent.

The U.S. govern­ment com­plained that “China’s con­duct as de­scribed above, . . . is provoca­tive and in­con­sis­tent with China’s le­gal obli­ga­tions un­der the law of the sea,” the cable said.

“China’s ac­tiv­i­ties re­gard­ing USNS Vic­to­ri­ous con­sti­tute se­ri­ous ha­rass­ment and el­e­vate the risk of mis­cal­cu­la­tion.”

The cable said prior to the beam il­lu­mi­na­tion of the ship, it was shad­owed by Luhu-or Lu­da­class war­ships, Wagor oceano­graphic and pa­trol ves­sels. The Vic­to­ri­ous was also buzzed by Chi­nese Y-12 and B-6 air­craft 75 times in low-al­ti­tude passes over the U.S. ship.

China’s ha­rass­ment of U.S. Navy ships did not sur­face in pub­lic un­til a year later in 2009 when then-Di­rec­tor of National In­tel­li­gence Dennis C. Blair told a Se­nate hear­ing that Chi­nese ships had be­come ag­gres­sive in seek­ing to assert con­trol over a 200-mile Eco­nomic Ex­clu­sion Zone that ex­tends into in­ter­na­tional wa­ters but is not rec­og­nized by the Navy in as­sert­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion.

Chi­nese ships fol­lowed and ha­rassed the USNS Im­pec­ca­ble in the South China Sea on March 9, 2009. umn last week that it is con­duct­ing a probe into whether China will ob­tain valu­able avion­ics tech­nol­ogy for its mil­i­tary from the joint ven­ture of Gen­eral Elec­tric Co. and the Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp. of China (AVIC).

“The De­fense Tech­nol­ogy Se­cu­rity Agency [DTSA] rou­tinely meets with in­dus­try to re­ceive in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing the com­pa­nies’ po­ten­tial ex­port of mu­ni­tions and/or dual use items,” the of­fi­cial said.

The meet­ing with GE of­fi­cials two weeks ago was “one of many meet­ings DTSA has with its in­dus­trial part­ners each year.”

A June 22, 2011, email from DTSA said GE had not ap­plied for an ex­port li­cense re­lated to the tech­nol­ogy in­volved in the China ven­ture and as a re­sult the De­fense Depart­ment “has not for­mally re­viewed any tech­nol­ogy as­so­ci­ated with the [joint ven­ture].”

The email said that in an ear­lier meet­ing with GE, “DTSA ex­pressed reser­va­tions about the GE self-de­ter­mi­na­tion that the pro­posed tech­nolo­gies would not re­quire a li­cense,” not­ing that the Chi­nese com­pa­nies in­volved have “a his­tory of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween civil and mil­i­tary sec­tors.”

“DTSA opined that there was the po­ten­tial/pos­si­bil­ity for China to ex­ploit civil tech­nolo­gies for use in its own mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion,” the DTSA email said.

GE spokes­men have said the ven­ture will not in­volve mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy and that no Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials will be al­lowed to work on the project.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTO / XIN­HUA

Friend of China? In this photo re­leased by China’s Xin­hua News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, is greeted by Chi­nese State Coun­cilor Dai Bing­guo in north­east China’s Hei­longjiang Prov­ince on Aug. 26.

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