A Chinese warship came dangerously close to a U.S. Navy ship in the South China Sea last weekend, a move that was called “unsafe and unprofessional.”
In pictures posted by the blog gCaptain, a blog dedicated to maritime professionals, the Chinese destroyer can be seen just 41 metres away from the USS Decatur. A U.S. Navy official confirmed to Global News the pictures are authentic, but weren’t released by the Navy.
U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman called the action an “unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre.”
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the USS Decatur travelled within 22 kilometres of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands on Sunday.
China’s defence ministry said a Chinese naval ship had been sent to warn the U.S. vessel to leave.
Gorman said in an emailed statement the ship “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive manoeuvres accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart the area.”
Royal Australian Navy Commodore Richard Menhinick told the Australian Broadcasting Company the photos appear to show that China was violating the International Law of the Sea.
“It’s certainly uncomfortable, it’s certainly not what’s supposed to happen under the Law of the Sea,” Menhinick said.
“The Law of the Sea is designed to have a ‘give way’ vessel and another vessel, and not to end up in situations like that.”
But China said in a statement the country has irrefutable claims over the islands in the sea and the waters around them.
“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,” China’s defence ministry said.
A deputy spokesman of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said the U.S.’s actions were in accordance with international law.
“U.S. Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen told Global News.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday he did not see relations between the United States and China worsening, a day after his trip to China was cancelled.
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— With files from Reuters