Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Chinese destroyer sails extremely close to United States warship

Chinese destroyer sails extremely close to United States warship

The USS Decatur guided-missile destroyer was conducting what the military calls a "freedom of navigation operation" on Sunday, when it passed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the remote Spratly Islands.

A Chinese warship sailed within yards of an American destroyer - forcing it to change course - in an "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter as the U.S. vessel was in contested waters in the South China Sea, an official said Monday, October 1.

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

These types of missions, often a thorn in Beijing's side, demonstrate that the U.S. does not recognise China's extensive and previously discredited territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a U.S. warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship. In response, China dispatched a Luyang-class destroyer to escort the American warship away from the disputed area, allegedly behaving in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner, according to the United States version of events.

In this file photo taken on October 21, 2016, the destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea as part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group.

The 12-mile distance is commonly accepted as constituting the territorial waters of a landmass.

'China's military is resolutely opposed to this, ' it added.

In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued a landmark ruling that Beijing's expansive "nine-dash line" claim to the South China Sea had no legal basis.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

The ministry said it strongly urged the U.S. to stop its "provocative" actions.

ABC reports of the encounter state that the PLAN vessel was initially 500 yards from the USS Decatur's port side, but moved ahead of the USA ship to cut across its path coming within 45 yards of the front of the Decatur.

A USA defense official told The Japan Times on Sunday that the Decatur conducted the freedom of navigation operation under the right of "innocent passage".

The U.S. regularly conducts FONOPS, or freedom of navigation operations, in disputed seas around the world to challenge "excessive" maritime claims. "We strongly urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistake and stop such provocative actions to avoid undermining China-U.S. relations and regional peace and stability", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday in a statement.

Last week, the Pentagon said the B-52s had transited over the South China Sea as part of "regularly scheduled operations created to enhance our interoperability with our partners and allies in the region".

Gorman said that the USA would "continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere global law allows".

China and the United States are also locked in a spiraling trade war that has seen them level increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other's imports.

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