Chinese Submarine Conducted Simulated Missile Attack on USS Reagan

Image: Chinese Submarine Conducted Simulated Missile Attack on USS Reagan Sailors line up on a Chinese nuclear submarine at the Qingdao submarine base in east China's Shandong province. (AP Photo)

By Loren Gutentag   |   Tuesday, 15 Dec 2015

The multinational Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), which was once praised as a major step in U.S.-China military relations last year, now doesn't seem to hold much weight as a Chinese submarine conducted a simulated cruise missile attack on the aircraft carrier USS Reagan during a close encounter several weeks ago, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

In an effort to prevent accidents or "mishaps," the non-binding 2014 CUES agreement states that commanders at sea should avoid "simulation of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of vessels or aircraft encountered."

The Free Beacon notes that although the incident occurred during the weekend of Oct. 24, the Obama administration has kept the details of submarine targeting under wraps "to avoid upsetting military relations between the Pentagon and the People's Liberation Army."

Although Adm. Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, did not deny that the incident occurred, when asked via email about it, he side-swiped the question stating, "I have nothing for you."

"I cannot discuss submarine operations, reports of submarine operations, or rumors of submarine operations," added Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Darryn James. "I can tell you that we are completely confident in the effectiveness and capabilities of the ships and aircraft of the forward-deployed naval force."

However, members on Capitol Hill, including the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are concerned by the recent reports.

"If true, this would be yet another case of China trying to show us that they can hold our forces in the region at risk," said Forbes.

"Coming on the heels of anti-satellite tests and other demonstrations, this latest incident should be a reminder of the destabilizing course that China is on and the challenges we face in maintaining a stable military balance in the Asia-Pacific region," Forbes added.

According to the Free Beacon, China military specialist at the International Assessment and Strategy Center Rick Fisher noted that the Chinese navy "operates several types of submarines capable of firing anti-ship cruise missiles."

Additionally, eight of China's 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines have the capacity to fire Club anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 137 miles.
"Even though China would have been at fault for the incident, the Chinese government would likely then use it as an excuse for initiating a series of attacks or incidents against U.S. naval forces," said Fisher.

He added that the incident, "certainly runs counter to a 2014 U.S.-China agreement to avoid such incidents at sea, which could indicate that China may have little intention to honor such this or other military confidence building agreements."

The Free Beacon reports that "a Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment."

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