U.S. warship sails through waters off disputed islets

Geraldine Edwards
October 5, 2018

On Sunday, the Decatur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratlys as part of what the U.S. Navy calls freedom of navigation operations.

The Chinese defense ministry said the Decatur's actions - and previous USA sail-bys - threaten its sovereignty and security.

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which over one-third of global trade passes.

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.

Gorman said on Tuesday that the Chinese destroyer approached within 41m of the Decatur's bow, forcing it to manoeuver. Pacific Fleet spokesperson Commander Nate Christensen said.

The U.S. Navy regularly conducts FONOPs to challenge maritime claims the United States considers excessive.

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She urged the U.S. to immediately correct its mistakes and stop such provocative operations in order to protect bilateral ties as well as regional peace and stability.

Schuster said China seems to be adopting "a more aggressive response policy" to USA ships, emboldened in part by last year's collisions between United States destroyers and merchant ships in the Asia-Pacific.

A US defense official characterized the close encounter as having been of short duration.

According to another US official, the Chinese warship was initially about 500 yards on the Decatur's port side then moved ahead of the Decatur and cut across the American destroyer's bow. "As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere global law allows".

President Donald Trump ordered new levies on $200 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing responded with tariffs on $60 billion in American products, nearing the point of running out of USA goods to target.

This incident comes in a context of relations are particularly strained between Washington and Beijing, embroiled in a trade dispute is playing with shots of customs duties punitive damages on billions of dollars of goods.

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"Our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere global law allows", he said.

Picture courtesy of the US Navy.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Defence Secretary James Mattis had dropped plans to visit China later this month, citing unidentified USA defence officials. "Intra- and extra-regional powers, including the U.S., Japan, India and others, want to strongly signal to China that their outright rejection of worldwide law and assertive behavior in the South and East China seas will not go unchallenged by the global community".

The U.S. had placed sanctions in 2017 on that exporter, Rosoboronexport, in response to Russia's interference in America's 2016 presidential election.

In another sign of the growing tensions, the Chinese government canceled a port visit to Hong Kong by the USS Wasp, a US Navy amphibious assault ship, last week.

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