U.S. defense officials have confirmed that a USS Decatur came dangerously close to a Chinese destroyer during a recent exercise, forcing the US destroyer to perform evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision.
“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.
Brown said the Chinese warship “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart the area.”
He added that the Chinese destroyer “approached within 45 yards” of the front of the US ship, adding that the Decatur “maneuvered to prevent a collision.”
As was reported over the weekend, the USS Decatur guided-missile destroyer on Sunday conducted the U.S. Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, coming within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs claimed by China.
ABC News also added that according to another U.S. official, the Chinese warship was initially about 500 yards on the Decatur’s port side then moved ahead of the Decatur and cut across the American destroyer’s bow at a distance of 45 yards (135 feet).
To help visualize that distance, a baseball catcher throwing the ball to second base to throw out a runner throws the baseball a distance of 127 feet.
Chinese vessels have approached U.S. Navy ships during previous freedom of navigation operation (FONOPs) in the South China Sea, but Sunday’s encounter appears to the be the closest one yet.
This incident comes amid heightened US-China tensions over a broad range of issues. Chinese ships often shadow US vessels during freedom of navigation operations but those interactions are usually considered safe.
The Type 052C destroyer, also known as Luyang II, is a class of destroyer built by China. It features a four array phased array radar for 360-degree coverage. The radar is used in conjunction with vertically launched HHQ-9 long-range air defense missiles. The Type 052C was the first warship in the People’s Liberation Army Navy Surface Force to have true long-range fleet air defense capability.