Chinese warship sailed within yards 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 chains 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 maneuver 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 maneuvers, and warned the Decatur to depart the area,” he added.
The Chinese “destroyer approached within 45 yards (meters) of Decatur’s bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision.” US-Chinese relations have been strained on multiple levels since Donald Trump became president in 2017.