Published: Fri, October 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Mattis cancels China trip after Chinese, US Navy destroyers almost collide

Mattis cancels China trip after Chinese, US Navy destroyers almost collide

October 2, 2018 (EIRNS)-China has responded vigorously to the "freedom of navigation" incident during which the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur sailed within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed reefs in the Spratly Islands on September 30.

"Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows and our national interests demand".

In the past two weeks, the U.S. and China have canceled several high-level military-to-military meetings meant to defuse tensions. The PRC destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for DECATUR to depart the area.

The two ships could have been seconds away from a collision, said Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain with 12 years at sea who looked at the photos at the request of CNN.

"They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade", Trump said, later referencing as evidence an advertising insert in The Des Moines Register paid for by Chinese government-affiliated entities.

Days earlier, China nixed a planned port visit of a USA warship to Hong Kong, and canceled a meeting between the head of the Chinese navy and his American counterpart.

China has claimed a large swathe of the South China Sea as its own, turning reefs and shoals into artificial islands and outfitting them with military-grade airfields, weapons, and military-grade sensors.

The Chinese navy's actions forced the Decatur to maneuver to avoid a collision, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, Capt. Charlie Brown, said in a statement.

"Relations between China and the other claimants have been relatively calm recently, but the conflict in the South China Sea has been intensified by the involvement of the United States", he said.

"The close encounter between the Chinese destroyer and the USS Decatur was the closest one yet", Timothy Heath, senior global defense research analyst at the RAND Corporation, told AFP.

The Navy described the encounter Sunday in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as "an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver".

The proposal, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, has yet to be approved.

China opposed the US warship's entry into the waters around the reefs, the Chinese defense ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

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

Noting that such actions violated established rules, Glaser added the encounter in the South China Sea represented a "different level of interfering" in a USA freedom of navigation operation. "The US has repeatedly sent warships into the territorial waters near Chinese reefs and islands in the South China Sea", it said.

Australia's military began a two-week multilateral security exercise in the South China Sea on Tuesday along with military forces from Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and the UK. China also canceled a scheduled port call by the USS Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to Hong Kong.

News of this plan comes on the heels of serious incidents in the East and South China Seas.

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