Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Tense International Encounter Unfolds in South China Sea

Tense International Encounter Unfolds in South China Sea

A Chinese warship sailed within yards of an American destroyer - forcing it to change course - in an "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter as the USA vessel was in contested waters in the South China Sea, an official said Monday, October 1.

The US has accused a Chinese naval ship of conducting "unsafe and unprofessional" manoeuvres when one of its warships entered the waters of the disputed South China Sea. The destroyer "approached within 45 yards of Decatur's bow, after which Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision", he said.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a USA warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship. Such operations need to be within 12 nautical miles of an island or territory to constitute a challenge under worldwide law.

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea last week.

Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all make claims to parts of the sea.

Tuesday's statement, unusual in clearly announcing the run-in with the Chinese vessel, reaffirmed that the US would not halt its operations in the area.

Although the US takes no position on the competing claims, its navy regularly carries out freedom of navigation operations - known as "FONOPs" - by sending warships and aircraft near disputed waters to demonstrate the right to travel through what it considers global waters and airspace.

In a 2016 ruling, the tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration - an intergovernmental organization that resolves global disputes including territorial and maritime boundaries - concluded Gaven Reefs did not possess significant land features and thus lacked an exclusive economic zone, as China had claimed.

"China's military is resolutely opposed to this", it said.

But China perceives the voyages as a provocation.

Gorman said that the US would "continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere worldwide law allows".

China conducted "live-fire shooting drills" in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.

The military strain between the world's two largest economies has deepened even as they're locked in an increasingly heated trade war.

Meanwhile, media reports have said China has also canceled a high-level security meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that had been planned for later this month amid a broad range of disputes between Beijing and Washington, over issues such as arms sales to Taiwan and military activity in the South China Sea and other waters around China.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Defence Secretary James Mattis had dropped plans to visit China later this month, citing unidentified US defence officials.

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