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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Chinatopix June 28, 2016

Chinese Robot ‘Science Ship’ set to Operate in the Indian Ocean

By Arthur Dominic Villasanta

China plans to deploy its "most advanced marine science ship" to explore the Indian Ocean but questions are being raised in the Indian media if this ship is truly civilian or a spy ship for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said this oceanographic research vessel -- the Xiang Yang Hong 01 -- is fully automated and can be operated by a single sailor. The 100 meter-long ship is classed as an AGOR or Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research vessel that carries out oceanographic research.

The Xiang Yang Hong 01 displaces 4,980 tonnes and has a range of 15,000 nautical miles. SOA said the ship's "plentiful remote sensing equipment (can) explore as deep as 10,000 meters."

The deepest point in the Indian Ocean lies at 8,047 meters. This spot is found at the Diamantina Deep in the Diamantina Trench.

Xiang Yang Hong 01 will conduct its first task in the Indian Ocean, said Qiao Fangli, Communist Party Secretary of SOA's First Institute of Oceanography.

Reactions in India to the news the ship will survey the Indian Ocean ranged from alarm to outright hostility. Some readers of the Times of India said the Indian Navy should immediately sink the Chinese ship. Another warned of Chinese expansionism being a danger to India and the world while another said the Chinese wanted turn the Indian Ocean into the Chinese Ocean so the Chinese can claim to own it.

The military website "globalsecurity.org," however, classifies the "AGOR Xiang Yang Hong 01" as a warship belonging to the PLAN but also noted this ship and the others in its class are "are used for oceanographic research." It listed 11 ships carrying the name Xiang Yang Hong belonging to the AGOR Oceanographic Research / AGS Survey class.

Also raising questions about the true nature of the mission of Xiang Yang Hong 01 is that SOA's job is the supervision and management of sea areas in China and coastal environmental protection. SOA also protects China's national maritime rights and organizes scientific and technical research of China's territorial waters. It is responsible for regulating the coastal zone of China.

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