Published: Fri, October 05, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

China, US in row over warship’s movement

China, US in row over warship’s movement

The Decatur was conducting a freedom of navigation patrol in the South China Sea that brought it within 12 nautical miles of reefs in the Spratly Islands, a Vietnamese and Philippine territory claimed by China.

Instead, it considers the waters and airspace to be global and regularly conducts what it calls "freedom of navigation operations" in which warships and aircraft travel through disputed zones in order to demonstrate this.

The bitter trade dispute between China and the U.S.is increasingly spilling into the military domain, with a risky incident in the South China Sea highlighting the dangers of souring relations.

The Americans reported the Chinese ship conducted a series of "aggressive" manoeuvres while warning the Decatur to get out of the area. "Beijing is also trying to project its power farther than ever before", Mr. Pence will say, adding that "we will not be intimidated; we will not stand down".

"A (People's Republic of China) Luyang destroyer approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea", Capt. Charles Brown, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN in a statement confirming the incident.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday that he doesn't see the USA relationship with China worsening despite reports that his tentative plans to visit the country later this month appear to be canceled. Images released by the U.S. Navy appear to show the Chinese warship pulling in front of USS Decatur, which veered off to avoid a crash.

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The US naval operation also comes as military ties between the two countries have dived, with Beijing also angered by Washington's sanctions on China's military for buying Russian arms and by US support for self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

U.S. -China military relations have been strained before. China's defence ministry said one of its ships had been sent to warn the USA vessel to leave and that Beijing had irrefutable sovereignty over the waters. It's one of the seven reefs and shoals that China's transformed into man-made island fortresses, seizures rejected by global courts and disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan. "Australia has consistently expressed concern over ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea and we continue to urge all claimants to refrain from unilateral actions that would increase tension in the region".

Mattis this week acknowledged "tension points" between the US and China, but told reporters he did not "see it getting worse".

US defense officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Mattis has dropped plans to visit China amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit China on Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. The ministry gave no details, but based on previous visits by American secretaries of state, he would be likely to meet with China's foreign minister, senior foreign policy advisers and President Xi Jinping.

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