China’s research vessel headed to Maldives stopped by Indonesian Coast Guard: Report

The US Naval Institute reported that the Chinese government vessel “XIANG YANG HONG 03” was stopped by the ICG on January 11 in the Sunda Strait area

 The Indonesian Coast Guard (ICG) stopped a Male-bound Chinese research vessel as it had turned off its automated information system, Maldives-based Adhadhu reported on Sunday. The Indonesian authority’s move came after the ship, while traveling through the country’s waters, turned off the transponder three times between January 8 and 12.

The US Naval Institute said the Chinese government vessel “XIANG YANG HONG 03” was stopped by the ICG on January 11 in the Sunda Strait area, the report said, adding that the crew on the vessel denied turning off the transponder and claimed that it was broken. 

The automatic identification systems transponders are designed to be capable of providing position, identification, and other information about the ship to other ships and coastal authorities automatically. 

The ICG did not attempt to board the Chinese ship but asked it to leave the country’s exclusive economic zone, reported The Asia Times. As per international maritime law, all vessels navigating the archipelagic sea lanes in Indonesian waters are required to have working transponders.

Adhadhu reported that sites that track marine traffic showed the vessel’s location on January 22 in the Java Sea and its present location was unknown.

Earlier this month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a paper titled: “China’s Dual-Use Research Operations in the Indian Ocean. The paper mentions that China’s vessels go dark for some hours or days while near PLA installations.

“Behavior at sea can also raise red flags. Repeated instances of “spoofing” (providing falsified identification information) or “going dark” (turning off automatic identification system signals for extended periods) are important warning signs. Data from Windward indicates these activities occur frequently—sometimes near foreign military facilities,” the paper states.

The paper also says that to survey the Earth’s oceans, China has developed the world’s largest fleet of civilian research vessels. While these ships support scientific and commercial objectives, it adds, they are also being used to advance Beijing’s strategic ambitions. Hidden Reach, a special initiative of CSIS, identified 64 active research and survey vessels. Of the 64 active vessels, over 80 per cent have demonstrated suspect behavior, the paper states.   

On January 22, weeks after Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu returned from China, Damien Symon, an open-source intelligence researcher, said China’s research vessel – XIANG YANG HONG 03 – was heading towards Male.

Just a day after this, the Maldives Foreign Ministry confirmed the development but said the Chinese vessel would not conduct research in Maldivian territory. However, India’s geostrategist Brahma Chellaney said Male’s claim that the ship won’t conduct any research was “laughable”.

“The Muizzu government claim that the PLA-linked ship would not conduct oceanographic research in the Maldivian waters is laughable as the Maldives has zero capability to detect such activity,” the geostrategist said. 

Chellaney said China is aggressively engaged in mapping the Indian Ocean bed and collecting seismic and bathymetric data to facilitate submarine operations in India’s maritime backyard. “And the Maldives, under its new Islamist-leaning, pro-China president, is becoming an enabler,” he said. 


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