The US Navy is reporting a second dangerous interaction and provocation by China's military in less than a week, days after an American spy plane was approached very closely by a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea.
The Pentagon says that on Saturday the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal were conducting passage of the Taiwan Strait in international waters when a Chinese warship approached and maneuvered in "an unsafe maritime interaction".
The Chinese vessel crossed the US destroyer's bow at a distance of 150 yards, which forced the US Navy ship into evasive maneuvers for the sake of avoiding a collision.
"During the transit, PLA(N) LUYANG III DDG 132 (PRC LY 132) executed maneuvers in an unsafe manner in the vicinity of Chung-Hoon," the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's statement said. "The PRC LY 132 overtook Chung-Hoon on their port side and crossed their bow at 150 yards. Chung-Hoon maintained course and slowed to 10 kts to avoid a collision," it described.
A second pass then came directly in front of the USS Chung-Hoon at a distance of 2,000 yards, with the Chinese warship then shadowing off the destroyer's port bow.
"The LY 132's closest point of approach was 150 yards and its actions violated the maritime 'Rules of the Road' of safe passage in international waters," the US Navy statement underscored.
Parts of the incident were captured on video by Canadian journalists aboard the HMCS Montreal. The Canadian ship had been trailing the Chung-Hoon at some distance.
Interestingly, both sides are using the incident to accuse the other of "bullying" - with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin having said Saturday, "We will support our allies and partners as they defend themselves against coercion and bullying." The Pentagon chief emphasized, "To be clear, we do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion."
China's military defended its warship's actions, which comes after repeat warnings against the US cross 'red lines' regarding military support for self-ruled Taiwan:
China’s defense minister defended sailing a warship across the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world’s top defense officials in Singapore on Sunday that such so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation to China.
In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, Gen. Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn’t have any problems with “innocent passage” but that “we must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation.”
The Chinese top military chief further urged the restoration of dialogue between the two rivals, stressing that a clash between the nuclear-armed powers US and China would be an "unbearable disaster for the world".