Chinese destroyer extremely close to US warship

The Chinese vessel " approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver 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", Pacific Fleet told CNN.

"The Chinese vessel took quick action and made checks against the U.S. vessel in accordance with the law, and warned it to leave the waters", it said.

A statement by the Chinese defence ministry said on Tuesday that the USS Decatur had ventured into Chinese waters on Sunday, and its navy had to send a Luyang-class destroyer to warn it off.

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

As media reports in recent days have given accounts that the U.S. is stepping up operations in the South China Sea, Beijing appears to be responding, according to the Pentagon.

The US routinely angers Beijing with "freedom of navigation" missions.

In recent months, tensions have risen sharply in the region as Chinese President Xi Jinping has escalated his regional land-grab to the status of military occupation.

China has demanded the US cancel its sale to Taiwan of $330 million in parts for USA -made F-16 fighters and other military aircraft used by the island nation, which mainland China regards as a renegade province. One official said the Chinese destroyer came as close as 41 metres to the American ship. Xi, who told President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the artificial islands, has now clearly broken his promise as Chinese military bases, runways, and even nuclear plants, in worldwide, Vietnamese, and Philippine territory continue to spring up monthly on the man-made land.

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

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.

The Chinese military too voiced its opposition to the United States ship sailing through the area. The U.S. would "continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere worldwide law allows", said Gorman, the Pacific Fleet spokesman.

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, in turn, urged Washington to either reconsider the move or prepare to bear "consequences".

On Monday, a U.S. defense official said that security talks due to take place later this month in Beijing between Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart had been canceled. "Intra- and extra-regional powers, including the U.S., Japan, India and others, want to strongly signal to China that their outright rejection of global law and assertive behavior in the South and East China seas will not go unchallenged by the worldwide community".

  • Jon Douglas