A Chinese warship steered within 45 yards of a US destroyer near the Spratly Islands this weekend in a manoeuvre that US officials have branded “unsafe”.
The vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” the Pacific Fleet said today (Tuesday, September 2).
The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions and increased American military activity in the South China Sea.
As we reported last week, US Air Force B-52 heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.
Then, last weekend, China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the disputed waters over the weekend in an apparent show of force.
The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similar incident involving a British warship.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing close to the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese navy dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship. Beijing also warned that the incident could affect any post-Brexit trade deals.
The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that approach its contested islands, many of which have been armed with missiles and other weapons systems. These missions are conducted to demonstrate that the US and UK do not recognise China’s expansive South China Sea claims. These have also been discredited by an international tribunal that found in favour of the Philippines.
China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defence officials in the past week as tensions between the US and China rise.
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