Chinese Warship Nearly Hits US Destroyer in South China Sea Near Disputed Islands

USS Antietam
FILE - This Mar. 6, 2016, file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, shows the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) sails in the South China Sea. China says it dispatched warships to identify and warn off a pair of U.S. Navy vessels sailing near one of its island claims in the South China Sea. A statement on the Defense Ministry’s website said the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam entered waters China claims in the Paracel island group “without the permission of the Chinese government.” (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marcus L. Stanley/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

China said it drove away a U.S. Navy warship that sailed close to a Chinese-occupied feature in the disputed South China Sea, in the latest show of tensions between the countries amid their escalating trade war.

“The U.S. Navy’s Decatur missile destroyer arbitrarily entered the waters adjacent to an island reef in the South China Sea,” the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement Tuesday. “The U.S. ship was identified and verified according to the law, and warned it and drove it away.”


The Chinese warship conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to leave the area, Gorman said in an email. The destroyer “approached within 45 yards of Decatur’s bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision,” he said.

While the operation was reported by CNN on Sunday, the details about the confrontation emerged Tuesday morning Asia time. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average retreated from an intraday high, after closing Monday at its highest level since 1991. The index was little changed as of 12:30 p.m. Tokyo time.

‘Firmly Opposed’

Gaven Reef is one of seven Chinese-claimed outposts in the Spratlys chain. China has reclaimed 3,200 of acres of land in the features and built ports, runways and other military infrastructure.

The U.S. carries out freedom of navigation operations by sending Navy ships and aircraft near disputed waters to demonstrate the right to travel through what it considers international waters and airspace. Such operations need to be within 12 nautical miles of an island or territory to constitute a challenge under international law.


Gorman said that the U.S. would “continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”


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