In what the US Navy has called an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter, a Chinese warship sailed within just 45 yards (41 meters) of a US destroyer Sunday as it passed by Chinese-claimed features in the South China Sea, forcing the American vessel to take evasive action.
“The close encounter between the Chinese destroyer and the USS Decatur was the closest one yet,” Timothy Heath, senior international defense research analyst at the RAND Corporation, told AFP.
Beijing reacted furiously after the incident, saying America’s “freedom of navigation” operation threatened China’s sovereignty and security, and damaged military relations between the two powers.
Last week, plans for a Beijing meeting between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe fell through after China declined to make Wei available.
That all came around the time US B-52 bombers took part in a combined operation with Japan over the East China Sea, and flew through international airspace over the South China Sea.
Mattis this week acknowledged “tension points” between the US and China, but told reporters he did not “see it getting worse.”