CHINA BLINDED U.S. CREW
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.
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.