Chinese warship's 'unsafe' encounter with United States vessel

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

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

US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt Cmdr Tim Gorman said the Chinese warship approached the USS Decatur in an "unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre" on Sunday near Gaven Reefs in the South China Sea. A Chinese navy vessel carried out identification and verification procedures of the USS Decatur in accordance with law and warned it, Wu Qian, spokesperson with the Ministry of National Defence said in a statement.

The missile destroyer USS Decatur (pictured in 2016) operates in the South China Sea.

When the Chinese destroyer had reached a distance 45 yards of the Decatur's bow, the USA destroyer was forced to take evasive action to avoid collision.

In May, Chinese warships warned two USA navy ships away from the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea and maneuvered in a "safe, but unprofessional" manner, according to a CBS report.

The US said its plane was conducting routine operations in global airspace, and called the incident an unsafe intercept.

Last month, the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China's claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands.

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.

The behavior "gravely threatens China's sovereignty and security, gravely damages relations between China and the U.S. and their militaries, and gravely injures regional peace and stability".

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

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

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The United States has said the destroyer was conducting a "freedom of navigation" mission into oceanic territory as it seeks to reject maritime claims by multiple countries.

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.

Nonetheless, he added: "our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere worldwide law allows".

China's Defence Ministry said a Chinese naval ship had been sent to warn the US vessel to leave.

Chinese ships often shadow United States vessels during similar operations but at a greater distance.

Last week, the Pentagon said the B-52s had transited over the South China Sea as part of "regularly scheduled operations created to enhance our interoperability with our partners and allies in the region".

Beijing has tried to turn reefs and rocks in the area into artificial islands in order to claim them, the Washington Post reports.

China and the United States are also locked in a spiraling trade war that has seen them level increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other's imports.

After the incident on September 30, the Chinese government abruptly canceled a high-level security dialogue planned for mid-October in Beijing.

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