February 22, 2017

China - foreign Submarines & UUVs transiting South China Sea Must Surface

China has, unilaterally claimed "water areas" or "territorial waters" of the South China Sea within its "Nine dash line". (Map courtesy GeoGarage).

In an excellent post that will create headaches for the US, Japanese and Australian navies, Chinese state media, Ecns.cn reports February 15, 2017 China may soon redraft its 1984 Maritime Traffic Safety Law to require:

“Foreign submersibles [ie. submarines and UUVs must] travel on the surface, display national flags and report to Chinese maritime management administrations when they pass China’s water areas”. Such waters are understood to include the South China Sea.

China’s Global Times adds:

“Foreign military ships that are approved to enter China's waters should apply for pilotage. Foreign ships that enter Chinese waters without approval will be fined 300,000-500,000 yuan ([US]$43,706-72,844) and those violating Chinese laws would be expelled, it said.”


China's $73,000 fines may be very reasonable compared to an SSK's or SSN's hourly running costs. Attention Commanders! Take wads of cash or don't leave home without your American Express cards.



Josh said...


This just formalizes China's past behavior. They've previously captured examples of US mk46 and mk48 torpedoes. They've actively tried to harvest the towed array of a SURTASS ship. Anyone who thought they wouldn't steal a UUV given the opportunity was horrifically naive. There is of course the problem of them actually detecting and tracking underwater objects. Picking a glider out of the water that actively was marking its position for recovery doesn't count as ASW in my book. One can expect the USN to be a little more careful with its bath tub toys in the future.


Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

HI pete,
I don't think that No country will abide to what China demands because the US would challenge that and sail a Carrier battle group with 2 SSN's in tow.

Anonymous said...

For sure, USN combatants are not going to comply (witness the USS Carl Vinson currently in SCS), and ditto for all other navies as well. Especially given the most recent ruling by an International Court basically nullified China claims on this 10 dash line (it is not 9).
The requirement for pilotage, does it mean Japan or US have to pay a Chinese pilot to learn how to pilot a Soryu or a Virginia SSN? Give me a break!
I just do not see how China can enforce this unless they desire a shooting war right now (on which Mr. Bannon would be most ecstatic).

Anonymous said...

Australian submarines routinely and regularly transit thus area under water. Australian surface warships regularly transit the area too. Can't see them changing their procedures.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

The tale of how China acquired the Mark 46 LWTs is interesting. Basically the US sold them to China and helped China locally build them as Yu-7 LWTs.

The US rationalised, by the early 1980s China had already acquired some spent Mark 46s and reverse engineered them.

So the US came to the party by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu-7_torpedo#Yu-7 :

"the development of Yu-7 torpedo obtained a great boost from USA technical support in 1985, when China signed a USD$8 million deal with USA in purchasing Mk 46 Mod. 2 torpedoes with technological support for licensed assembly."

"The Bush [Snr] Administration had faced significant criticism from congress and many human rights activist groups for delivering the last batch of Mk 46 Mod. 2 torpedoes to China after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, but the Bush Administration countered that the delivery was the completion of a previous deal made prior to the crackdown."

Italy also helped "Another great benefit to the Yu-7 torpedo program was the Chinese purchase of 40 or so Italian Alenia A244-S light ASW torpedoes in 1987,"

So sealing the deal and profit trumped considerations of national security even before the current US Administration.



Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN, Nicky and Anonymous [at 23/2/17 2:32 PM]

Indeed submarine operating nations are very unlikely to comply by blowing their standard covert passage through the South China Sea (SCS) by surfacing for Chinese Navy toll collectors or pilots.

Compliance with China's SCS claims vary:

- US surface navy ships continue to pass through as usual.

- Australia and Japan seem to be avoiding any FONOPs navy surface ship confrontations. Aus P-3 Orion aircraft are doing FONOPS.

- The Philippines seems to be the Southeast Asian (or ASEAN) nation that is most fully complying with China's concept China owns the SCS.

China may be approaching other big navy nations and other ASEAN nations differently depending on the Chinese bilateral circumstances and degree of publicity.