A Chinese warship had an “unsafe and unprofessional” interaction with an American destroyer in the South China Sea, according to US defence officials.
The US vessel was conducting a freedom of navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands and was forced to alter its path “to prevent a collision”, US media reported.
“A (People’s Republic of China) Luyang destroyer approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” Captain Charles Brown, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN.
Captain Brown accused the Chinese warship of conducting “a series of increasingly aggressive manoeuvre accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart the area.”
He said the Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the front of the US ship, giving the ship’s captain seconds to react to avoid a collision.
“Our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he said.
Chinese ships often shadow US vessels during similar operations but at a greater distance.
Freedom of navigation operations is meant to enforce the right of free passage in international waters.
In response, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Tuesday: “The US has been repeatedly sending warships to the islands and the adjacent waters in the South China Sea, which has seriously threatened China’s sovereignty and safety.
“The Chinese military will resolutely perform its defence duties and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard our sovereignty and the regional peace and stability.”
The news comes as US-China tensions continue to grow, with US President Donald Trump saying Chinese leader Xi Jinping “may not be a friend of mine anymore”.
The two countries are locked in a dispute over Mr Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods.
At the United Nations Security Council last week, Mr Trump accused China of attempting to meddle in the upcoming US mid-term elections.