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Chinese ship spied on US missile defense test, Pentagon report says

China's People's Liberation Army (Navy) frigate PLA(N) Yueyang (FF 575) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe/U.S. Navy)
August 22, 2018

Amid tensions between China and the United States, China has reportedly stepped up its spying efforts against the U.S.

A new Pentagon report revealed that a Chinese Type 815A spy ship monitored a U.S. missile defense test conducted near Alaska in July 2017, according to The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday.

The Chinese ship monitored a “live test of the THAAD missile defense system,” according to the report.

The information was confirmed for the first time in the Pentagon’s annual report assessing the Chinese military. The report noted that China is increasing the use if its intelligence ships for spying efforts.

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The Dongdiao-class spy ship positioned itself near the Aleutian Islands to observe the test on July 11, 2017. A C-17 transport aircraft launched the missile just north of Hawaii. The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska, launched an interceptor.

The test was the 14th successful intercept of the THAAD system out of 14 attempts. The test simulated the intercept of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (ICBM). It was also said to serve as a warning signal to North Korea, which had tested its own intercontinental ballistic missile just a week before.

The spy ships have been observed at even further distances from China’s borders, and the ships have also been violating the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) designated under the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, which China signed in agreement.

Additionally, China has enacted restrictions on its own EEZs, barring any intelligence or military survey ships from entering.

Though it has repeatedly violated the international agreement, China continually challenges intelligence ships of other countries despite their activities permitted by international law.

China recently demanded a U.S. military plane immediately leave the South China Sea, even though the U.S. observation mission was well within international laws.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the Pentagon report noted. “This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law.”

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Another Chinese spy ship was observed in the Coral Sea to spy on a joint exercise between the U.S. and Australian navies, held in the same month as the missile system test.

The spying activities have continued to this year.

In July, a Chinese spy ship was spotted near Hawaii where it observed the annual Rim of the Pacific international naval exercise event. China, which typically partook in the events, was banned from the exercise due to its staunch militarization efforts of the artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese spy ships were also spotted near Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa and other countries. The activity has been so rampant, the Pentagon report included a map with visual markers demonstrating the locations of China’s spy ships during 2014-2017.

The activity demonstrates China’s readiness and capabilities of global operations, and the increasing threat they pose to the U.S.