Chinese Warship Sails Close To US Destroyer In South China Sea, Forcing US Vessel To Change Course

| October 2 , 2018 , 13:26 IST

Escalating the tensions between China and the US, a Chinese warship sailed within yards of a US destroyer, forcing it to change course, in an "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter after the US vessel entered the contested waters of the South China Sea, an official said on Monday.

The USS Decatur guided-missile destroyer had been conducting a "freedom of navigation operation" drill on Sunday when it entered within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson reefs in the remote Spratly Islands which are all claimed by China and have Chinese military installations. A distance of 12 nautical miles is considered to be a part of the territorial waters of a landmass.

US Pacific Fleet spokesman Commander Nate Christensen said to AFP that a Chinese Luyang destroyer approached the USS Decatur in "an unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea."

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He added, that the Chinese ship then carried out a series of "increasingly aggressive maneuvers, and warned the Decatur to depart the area."

The Chinese "destroyer approached within 45 yards (meters) of Decatur's bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision."

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Defence claimed that its ship had "given a warning to leave" to the US destroyer when it entered the area "without permission."

"The US has repeatedly sent warships into the territorial waters near Chinese reefs and islands in the South China Sea," it said.

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The behaviour "gravely threatens China's sovereignty and security, gravely damages relations between China and the US and their militaries, and gravely injures regional peace and stability."

While China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

Relations between China and the US have worsened since the US enacted new tariffs against China on $200 billion of its imports and imposed sanctions for China's defence deal with Russia. China retaliated, announcing tariffs and cancelling an upcoming security meeting between the Defence Secretaries two nations in Beijing.