USS Ronald Reagan: Chinese Sub Stalked Aircraft Carrier, Officials Say

The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear aircraft carrier, was recently stalked by a Chinese sub, and the incident marks the closest encounter between a People’s Liberation Army Navy boat and a U.S. aircraft carrier since 2006, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon. The incident occurred on October 24, and some officials are labeling it as a hazardous convergence in disputed waters. As reported by CNN, citing a U.S. defense official, it is the latest example of the test of wills between China and the United States in the Pacific.

According to the report, there had been no aggressive behavior between either side, and the two vessels were not in contact. However, American anti-submarine aircraft monitored the Chinese sub. From the Chinese side, there have been no comments regarding the matter.

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Officials say the USS Ronald Reagan was stalked by the Chinese submarine for at least 12 hours. The U.S. Navy identified the vessel as being a Chinese Kilo-class fast-attack submarine. The diesel-electric submarine is of Russian design and is around 70 meters long. Kilo class subs can carry torpedoes, sea mines, and fire anti-ship missiles. They were designed to defend coastal sea areas against ships and enemy submarines in the 1980s and are easy to recognize, thanks to today’s advances in technology.

In a statement regarding the incident, a report from WTKR claims that a U.S. defense official played down the threatening nature of the incident, saying that any time the U.S. conducts joint exercises with Japan, the Chinese sometimes “come out and take a look at what’s going on.” The official didn’t give many details of the incident, and he did not say how close the two vessels came to each other, but he did say that “it was more than a brief encounter.”

The encounter with the Chinese submarine comes at a time of heightened tensions. The Free Beacon wrote in their report that the incident occurred days before the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, carried out a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea. The Lassen reportedly sailed within 12 miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea on October 26. The sailing was part of the Freedom of Navigation operation, which is designed to assert the right of U.S. ships — or ships of any nation — in waters the U.S. believes are international waters.

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The Chinese government publicly condemned the incident, saying the passage was a violation of Beijing’s territorial sovereignty. China claims the South China Sea, a resource-rich marine area, for itself and is thus in conflict with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei. The United States’ presence in the region is seen as a protecting power, and officials in Washington are working hard for free access to important waterways.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the USS Ronald Reagan scrambled its fighter jets after two Russian naval reconnaissance aircraft flew within one nautical mile of the carrier as it sailed in international waters east of the Korean Peninsula. Fox News reports that 7th Fleet officials said the Russian “Bear Bombers” approached the ship at an elevation of 500 feet Tuesday morning. Navy spokesman Commander William Marks told the publication that U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornets escorted the Russian planes as they transited out of the area.

“We would characterize this as still at a safe distance. This kind of interaction is not unprecedented,” Cmdr. Marks explained.

U.S. officials attempted to contact the Russian aircraft but received no radio response. A U.S. ship escorting the Ronald Reagan followed the Russian aircraft as they withdrew, the report states.

[Photo by U.S. Navy/Getty Images News]