YUAN WANG 5- Entered Palau EEZ on July 29th and traveled to about 40 nm from the Territorial waters of Palau before steaming off in SW direction and exited Palau EEZ on July 31st at around 10:00 a.m. Current location is in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands. SONG HANG- Arrived in the area of Palau-Kyushu Ridge on August 17th, and has been conducting surveying activity in Palau’s Extended Continental Shelf (ECS).

China’s research vessel Song Hang has been hovering above Palau’s northern EEZ in the high seas pocket between Palau and the Philippines since August 17, doing parallel zigzagging patterns over the area of Palau-Kyushi Ridge in what is suspected to be seabed surveying activity.

The area of the high seas where the Song Hang Chinese vessel is located is the same location as the other Chinese vessel, Da Yang Hao was seen in 2021, moving in a similar pattern consistent with the seafloor mapping.

A report, “Overview of research cruises by Chinese fishery research vessel ‘Song Hang’ in the WCPFC area,” submitted by China to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Scientific Committee 18th Regular Session on August 18, 2022, says that the “fishery research vessel Song Hang” conducts research at this location, giving the current coordinate of the vessel, to “improve the commission’s scientific research to support better management advice.”

The report gives the coordinates of the area where the vessel Song Hang is currently located at the high seas pocket between Palau, Philippines, and Japan.  The report said that the research was conducted between August and September of 2021 and reported the results of that research. 

Inconsistently,  the same report refers to August to September 2022, listing proposed methodologies and materials to be used in the research while reporting the results of the research they say they are undertaking or are still to undertake.

The area of interest for the Chinese “research” vessels, the Palau-Kyushi Ridge, is part of Palau’s extended continental shelf claim.  China’s actions in the South China Sea, where it had surveyed, laid claim to, and built military facilities on reef shoals belonging to other countries, caused concern that the “so-called research activities” are part of the plan to map, name, and claim the area for China, said National Security Coordinator Jennifer Anson. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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