US Deploys Fleet in South China Sea, to Spy on China?


US Deploys Fleet in South China Sea, to Spy on China?
The USS Theodore Roosevelt docks in Da Nang, Vietnam, March 5, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

International Military - China suspects the US is conducting espionage on disputed South China Sea islands after Washington deployed three ships to scout in the region. The past week saw the expeditionary ship USNS Bowditch operating in Vietnam's EEZ, 60 miles in the East Danang Sea and about 90 miles in the South Sea of ​​China's Hainan Island.

The second vessel, the USN Effective, is in Philippine waters, 250 miles from Scarborough Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island. Meanwhile, the last ship, USNS Loyal, was seen in the East Taiwan Sea. China told Radio Free Asia that the "spy" vessel was deployed to carry out underwater reconnaissance. Namely to support its fleet in the event of a clash with Chinese submarines. They've been there since March 17th.

"The US Navy has often sent spy ships near China in recent years, but never seen them send so many personnel at the same time," Radio Free Asia said.

Spy Ship

Both USNS Bowditch, USNS Effective and USNS Loyal are survey ships belonging to the United States that have often been deployed to the South China Sea. The missions of the ships are to measure water conditions and deploy underwater drones to measure water temperature, salinity, acoustic environment and water chemistry. They also carry out very detailed surveys of the ocean floor.

“The data obtained can be used to detect and identify submarines in the vicinity. So, it's not wrong for China to think they are spy ships,” said Carl Schuster, a retired US Navy captain and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center.

Quoting Radio Free Asia, China also deployed its survey vessels in the waters nearby. China's third-generation spacecraft tracking ship Yuanwang-5 is currently in waters east of Taiwan, about 255 nautical miles from the island.

China has four Yuanwang Class tracking vessels in active service, including the Yuanwang-5 which entered service in 2007. According to security analysis, Paul Buchanan said that the Yuanwang Class is a dual-platform spy ship.

This means the ships are used for intelligence gathering and tracking satellites. 60 to 70 percent is used to look for other people's signals and 40-60 percent is satellite work.

“Both the US and China, they use signal-gathering vessels to track the whereabouts of enemy submarines,” Buchanan told Radio Free Asia. In addition to the survey ship, the US Navy also sent the expedition ship USS Miguel Keith which had entered the South China Sea, last March 21.

This is the first time the ship has arrived in the region since being deployed in the Western Pacific in October 2021. The 90,000 tonne vessel, which can serve as a strategic platform as well as a command center, is the US Navy's second largest ship after the aircraft carrier.

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