A CHINESE warship sailed within metres of an American destroyer — forcing it to change course — in an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter as the US vessel was in contested waters in the South China Sea, an official said Monday.
The USS Decatur guided-missile destroyer was conducting what the military calls a “freedom of navigation operation” Sunday, when it passed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the remote Spratly Islands.
The 12-mile distance is commonly accepted as constituting the territorial waters of a landmass.
Beijing claims all of the Spratly chain as part of its sweeping claims across much of the South China Sea.
During the operation, 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,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Commander Nate Christensen said.
The Chinese ship then conducted a series of “increasingly aggressive manoeuvres, and warned the Decatur to depart the area,” he added.
The Chinese “destroyer approached within 41 metres of Decatur’s bow, after which Decatur manoeuvred to prevent a collision.”
US-Chinese relations have been strained on multiple levels since Donald Trump became president in 2017.
A trade war launched by Trump has infuriated Beijing, as did his authorisation of a $1.3 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province.
Washington last week enacted new tariffs against China covering another $200 billion of its imports.
China has taken a series of retaliatory measures, including by scrapping a US warship’s planned port visit to Hong Kong and cancelling a meeting between the head of the Chinese navy and his American counterpart.
US DENIES TIES WITH CHINA ARE GETTING WORSE
On Monday, a US defence official said that security talks due to take place later this month in Beijing between Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart had been cancelled.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday that he doesn’t see the U.S. relationship with China worsening after a series of setbacks that officials said include canceling the Pentagon chief’s planned visit to Beijing this month. Mattis said the US has to learn how to manage its relationship with the communist nation.
“There’s tension points in the relationship, but based on discussions coming out of New York last week and other things that we have coming up, we do not see it getting worse,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Paris. “We’ll sort this out.” US defense officials told
The Associated Press on Monday that Mattis had dropped plans to visit China amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. Although the trip was never publicly announced, Mattis had planned to visit Beijing in October for two-plus-two security talks with his Chinese counterpart as well as US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pompeo’s Chinese counterpart. The Pentagon has made no public statement about Mattis’ change of plans. Relations between the US and China have deteriorated, as escalating trade disputes and tariff hikes have been exacerbated by a newly announced US military equipment sale to Taiwan and some recent military operations. In past years, military ties have been somewhat stable, but a series of events this year have roiled the waters.
At stake is President Donald Trump’s effort to enlist China’s help in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. China is North Korea’s longtime ally and has tended to insulate the North from American pressure to disarm. Just last week Beijing canceled a Washington visit by the head of its navy and denied a request for a U.S. Navy ship to make a port visit next month at Hong Kong.
China also protested a recent mission by nuclear-capable US B-52 bombers over the disputed South China Sea, calling the flights “provocative.”