The United States has lodged formal protest with the government in Beijing. claiming five Chinese ships harassed an American surveillance vessel in international waters, reported the New York Times. The incident took place on Sunday off the coast of Hainan Island. The American vessel, the Impeccable, was carrying out a surveillance mission that involved towing anti-submarine sonar equipment, Pentagon officials said. The Chinese vessels sailed within 25 feet of the American ship, waved flags and ordered the Impeccable to leave, Pentagon officials said. Chinese ships blocked the Impeccable’s route while Chinese sailors dropped pieces of wood in its path and attempted to hook the cables towing the sonar equipment, the officials said. The Impeccable crew turned a fire hose on some of the Chinese sailors. Some of the Chinese sailors stripped to their underwear. The Chinese ships appeared to be a naval intelligence vessel, two smaller trawlers, a fisheries patrol boat and an official oceanographic ship.The Impeccable did not carry large-caliber weapons and was operated by civilians for the Military Sealift Command, Pentagon officials said. The incident and its timing are similar to the aircraft incident that occurred shortly after former President Bush’s inauguration in 2001.