March 23, 2009, 9:24 AM — The U.S. Navy released eight videos over the weekend that offer a closer look at a controversial encounter between a U.S. vessel and five Chinese ships in the South China Sea.
One video shows a sailor aboard the Chinese trawler with a long boat hook in the water, apparently hoping to snag the cable of a sonar array being towed behind the USNS Impeccable, an underwater surveillance ship operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command.
"I'm getting it all on video, Captain," said a cameraman aboard the Impeccable.
"If you get a firehose, put it out on the (expletive) stinger. You can get a (expletive) better shot at the (expletive)," said another man, watching as the trawler crosses behind the Impeccable's stern. A stinger is a structure that projects from the ship's stern to guide the cable for the Impeccable's towed array, which is used to track submarines.
The moment -- also captured in a picture released by the U.S. Navy on March 8 -- was recorded in a video clip, one of eight released over the weekend on the Navy's official YouTube channel. The other videos are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The video does not show the reported use of the firehose to deter one of the Chinese ships from getting too close to the Impeccable.
The incident between the Impeccable and the Chinese ships took place south of a Chinese naval base that is home to some of China's most advanced submarines, including vessels designed to carry ballistic nuclear missiles.
The location is also not far from where a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the U.S. aircraft to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airbase, where the crew was detained.
"Impeccable was conducting routine survey operations in international waters 75 miles south of Hainan Island when it was harassed by five Chinese vessels," the U.S. Navy said in a brief statement on March 8.
The Chinese government interpreted the events differently. "The story of the U.S. side is totally untrue and unacceptable," China's Foreign Ministry said in a March 13 statement on its Web site.
"The U.S. Navy surveillance vessel, the Impeccable, in disregard of relevant international laws and Chinese laws and regulations, engaged in activities in China’s exclusive economic zones without our permission," it said.
The video released by the U.S. Navy is meant to strengthen claims that the Chinese ships acted recklessly during the encounter, but they also offer an unvarnished glimpse at the emotions and thoughts of some of the U.S. sailors during the incident.
"Here he comes for another swipe at the array cable," said the cameraman in another video, watching as the same Chinese trawler appears to cross behind the Impeccable in another attempt to cut the towed array from the ship.
"If anything happens and someone finds this camera, Bobby's a good man, leave him alone and don't cut his hair," said another sailor, who was not on camera.
"That's right. I want to video his (expletive) hitting the cable, so when I see him in Hong Kong I can punch him in the face," the cameraman said.