According to breaking reports in Interfax and Reuters based on Russian defense ministry statements, there's been a major incident involving a US vessel during Friday's joint Russia-China military drills in the Sea of Japan.
A Russian warship has "chased a US destroyer out of Russian territorial waters," Interfax is reporting, citing a Russian military statement. The Kremlin accused the US ship of breaching the zone where Russia-China drills were ongoing. Russian media reports are saying the two ships came within 60 meters of each other.
Here's the Russian defense ministry statement:
"Today, 15 October at about 5 pm local time, the USS Chafee destroyer which has been operating in the Sea of Japan for several days, approached the territorial waters of the Russian Federation and made an attempt to cross the state border."
"After receiving the warning, instead of changing course to leaved the closed sea area, the Chafee raised signalling flags indicating preparations for takeoff from its helicopter deck, meaning that it would be impossible for the warship to change its course and speed, and took action to violate the state border of the Russian federation in Peter the Great Bay."
Further Russia's Sputnik details that:
According to the ministry, the Admiral Tributs, an Udaloy-class large anti-submarine ship (classified by NATO as a destroyer), approached the US warship, and after several warnings, began driving the intruding vessel away from Russian waters.
The defense ministry said additionally that "The Chafee, convinced of the Russian ship crew's determination not to allow it to violate the state border, changed directions, and at 5:50 pm turned around after less than 60 meters were left between it and the Admiral Tributs," according to the statement.
Russian Defense Ministry published a video from the Russian warship of the moment when USS Chafee was approached by it in the Sea of Japan. pic.twitter.com/6fLOznuas2— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) October 15, 2021
Russia and China held the joint naval drills on the Sea of Japan on Friday, which reportedly focused on targeting enemy mines with artillery, meaning these were ongoing 'live fire' drills.
The war games are expected to run through Oct.17, involving multiple warships and support vessels, as well as submarine, from Russia's Pacific Fleet.
Reuters further previously described that "Two Chinese destroyers, a submarine and two corvettes were among the vessels Beijing had sent to take part in the drills, the Russian defence ministry said, saying they had dropped anchor in the Russian far east the previous day.
At this early point the US side has yet to confirm the incident - though will likely underscore "freedom of navigation" given that in prior instances the US Navy has denied breaching Russian territorial waters, especially in disputed areas of the Sea of Japan, where Russia and Japan both lay historic claim to a set of islands.
The ongoing historic dispute is focused on the four southernmost of the Kuril islands. The status of ownership of the islands, which Russia de facto currently controls and has even recently stationed missiles and small bases on, is still unresolved after 75 years following the Russo-Japanese war and as a treaty regarding their status is still being negotiated.
The island dispute, plus broader counter-China policies, is likely why the US Navy is engaged in this latest muscle-flexing in the Sea of Japan.