Chinese Warship in 'Unsafe' Encounter with US Destroyer

The Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur in the South China Sea in 2016

Tensions have flared yet again in the South China Sea where a Chinese destroyer almost collided with an American warship while attempting to force the United States vessel to leave the disputed area which it claims as its own.

Two destroyers 45 yards from one another is close, but not unnavigable.

In this October 13, 2016, photo provided by the U.S. Navy, guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea as part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group.

China has taken a series of retaliatory measures, including by scrapping a USA warship's planned port visit to Hong Kong and cancelling a meeting between the head of the Chinese navy and his American counterpart.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, the USS Decatur sailed into Chinese waters near the Spratly Islands, also known as the Nansha Islands in Chinese, on September 30. The operation was conducted to "uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under worldwide law". The two islets are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Decatur's FONOP reportedly exercised the right of innocent passage, which permits vessels to transit through another state's territorial waters, generally defined as within 12 nautical miles from a sovereign coastline. Beijing claims a huge area known as the "nine-dash line", and routinely accuses the US Navy of provocation. China has rejected the global tribunal's ruling.

According to another US official, the Chinese warship was initially about 500 yards on the Decatur's port side then moved ahead of the Decatur and cut across the American destroyer's bow.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, but faces competing claims over the Spratlys from Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan.

The Chinese Navy identified the USA warship, warned and expelled it, Hua said, stressing that China has indisputable sovereignty of the Nansha islands and its adjacent waters.

It added: "China's military is resolutely opposed to this". On Wednesday, the U.S. Air Force flew nuclear-capable bombers near China in the East China Sea, which Beijing called "provocative" despite flying in worldwide airspace.

Washington has blasted Beijing for its island-building in the South China Sea, fearing the outposts could be used to restrict free movement in the waterway.

USA warships often maneuver in close formation, but their movements are closely coordinated, following standardized and procedures and principles, and the maneuvering ships rarely have less than 1,000 yards between them.

The Chinese armed forces will continue to take all necessary steps to protect the country's sovereignty and security, the ministry said. The People's Liberation Army has sought to contest such moves in territory it considers China's.

During a routine surveillance mission near the Chinese coast, a US Navy EP-3E Aries II spy plane collided with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet that was closely tailing it.

It is now routine for British, Japanese, Australian, and USA ships to sail the area, disregarding incessant warnings and orders from Chinese military officials who call global presence in the region a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

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

Sunday's FONOP also came just days after the US sent nuclear-capable B-52 bombers through the strategic waterway twice during the past week.

Last week, a U.S. Air Force B-52 flew a mission through the East China Sea and two other B-52 flights were carried out through the South China Sea.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war in which they have imposed increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other's imports.

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