South China Sea: Chinese ship forces USA destroyer off course

The incident comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing escalate over a wide range of issues, including trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives as being in its sphere of influence, though an global tribunal discredited its claims in a 2016 ruling.

A Chinese warship sailed within yards of an American destroyer - forcing it to change course - in an "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter as the U.S. vessel was in contested waters in the South China Sea, an official said Monday, October 1.

"On September 30, without permission of the Chinese government, the United States destroyer Decatur entered neighbouring waters of islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands", Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement on Tuesday.

The 12-mile distance is commonly accepted as constituting the territorial waters of a landmass.

Australia has even announced that, in the face of a possible conflict, they will be re-opening a World War II-era naval base on New Guinea in order to more effectively project force in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy routinely undertakes FONOP missions worldwide to challenge excessive territorial claims of global shipping lanes.

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 worldwide presence in the region a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

In a maneuver officials are calling "unsafe and unprofessional", the Chinese ship, a Luyang-class guided missile destroyer, forced the USS Decatur to change course to avoid a collision, CNN reported.

Nevertheless, China expanded some land features in the reefs through sand dredging in 2014 and 2015 and then militarized the reefs with anti-aircraft and naval guns and radars.

"U.S. Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea", said Brown.

The Chinese armed forces will continue to take all necessary steps to protect the country's sovereignty and security, the ministry said.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China's defence and foreign ministries each released statements Tuesday sharply criticizing the United States, though not disputing details of the US accusations involving the Decatur.

Washington last week enacted new tariffs against China covering another $200 billion of its imports.

"The U.S. side repeatedly sends military ships without permission into seas close to South China Seas islands, seriously threatening China's sovereignty and security, seriously damaging Sino-U.S. military ties and seriously harming regional peace and stability", the ministry said.

Beijing last month refused a USA warship entry to Hong Kong, and its top naval officer canceled a high-level meeting with his US counterpart.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

There was no immediate comments from China.

  • Rogelio Becker