The White House on Monday protested what military officials called China's harassment and aggressive shadowing of a US Navy ocean surveillance ship in international waters Sunday, and it urged greater respect for maritime law.
Five Chinese vessels "surrounded" the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea and closed to within 50 feet, with Chinese crew members "waving Chinese flags and telling Impeccable to leave the area," according to a Pentagon statement.
Impeccable sprayed fire hoses at one of the vessels in response, but the Chinese crew stripped to their underwear as their ship "continued closing to within 25 feet," the Pentagon said.
At that point, Impeccable used a bridge-to-bridge radio to communicate its intent to move on. But two of the Chinese vessels stopped directly in the path of the US ship, forcing it to conduct an emergency stop.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the US Navy would "continue to operate in those international waters, and we expect the Chinese to observe international law around there."