Chinese warship cuts off US Navy ship, marking 2nd military provocation in week

(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — In the second major provocation by China’s military in the span of a week, a Chinese warship carried out what the U.S. military called “an unsafe maritime interaction” when it crossed an American warship’s bow at a distance of 150 yards forcing the U.S. Navy destroyer to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

The incident occurred on Saturday as the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal executed a transit in the international waters of the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, according to officials.

“During the transit, PLA(N) LUYANG III DDG 132 (PRC LY 132) executed maneuvers in an unsafe manner in the vicinity of Chung-Hoon,” said a statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“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,” said the statement.

The Chinese warship then executed a second pass in front of the American warship’s bow at a distance of 2,000 yards and remained 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 Indo-Pacific Command said.

The close call at sea was captured on video by journalists with Canadian news outlet Global News that were traveling aboard the HMCS Montreal, which was sailing a distance behind the Chung-Hoon.

That video showed the Chinese warship appearing to head left to right in front of the warship’s path.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific as China engages in provocative behavior in the region in a speech Saturday to a security conference in Singapore.

“We will support our allies and partners as they defend themselves against coercion and bullying,” said Austin. “To be clear, we do not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion.”

China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu also referenced “bullying” and “double standards” in Asia by “some country,” an apparent reference to the U.S., in remarks Sunday to the Shangri-La Dialogue summit.

“A cold war mentality is now resurgent, greatly increasing security risks,” he said. “Mutual respect should prevail over bullying and hegemony.”

Chinese aircraft and warships have encountered harassment from Chinese planes and ships as they have transited the South China Sea where China has made territorial maritime claims in recent years.

U.S. officials said they believe that the harassment is coordinated and increasing in frequency.

A Chinese fighter jet crossed the path of an American reconnaissance plane in late May as it flew in international airspace, above the South China Sea, forcing the American plane to fly through the Chinese aircraft’s wake.

A senior U.S. defense official spoke Tuesday about that incident, expressing the belief that the Chinese harassment is coordinated and increasing in frequency.

“We don’t believe it’s done by pilots operating independently,” the official told a small group of reporters. “We believe it’s part of a wider pattern we see in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and elsewhere.”

Austin has sought to engage in substantive discussions with China to emphasize the need for regular discussions to avoid potential miscalculations or escalations that could develop from such incidents.

Before arriving in Singapore, China declined his offer to meet with Li, but on Friday Austin was able to shake Li’s hand and engage in a brief discussion at a dinner for senior leaders attending the conference.

“A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement,” Austin said in his remarks Saturday. “And the more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”

Another previous such incident occurred on Dec. 21, 2022, when a PLA J-11 fighter pilot came within 10 feet of what INDO-PACOM labeled “an unsafe maneuver.”

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