US, Chinese warships encounter in South China Sea
An American warship and a Chinese military vessel had an encounter in the South China Sea after the Pentagon announced its decision to monitor the region.
Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, said on Tuesday that the two ships used codes for the encounter near the Spratly Islands, Bloomberg reported.
“We had previously agreed with the Chinese, if we met at sea, to use code for unexpected encounters at sea,” Howard said.
The USS Fort Worth “came across one of our counterparts and they did do that, so things went as professionally as they have since that agreement was made,” she added.
The encounter comes one week after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon was considering using “aircraft and Navy ships to directly contest Chinese territorial claims to a chain of rapidly expanding artificial islands.”
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called for options that include flying surveillance aircraft over the islands and sending warships to within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands.
Beijing is building artificial islands in the South China Sea, saying the construction is in its own sovereign territory.
However, Washington says the islands are made in international waters and it does not recognize the man-made islands as sovereign Chinese territory.
The US admiral refused to give further details of the encounter and declined to say if the warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of the islands.
Meanwhile, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Tuesday that China’s measures in the South China Sea increases the potential for instability in the region.
He said the scale of China’s building work “far, far, far exceeds” any other country.