US, Chinese Warships Narrowly Avoid Collision in South China Sea

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - A US guided missile cruiser operating in international waters in the South China Sea was forced to take evasive action last week to avoid a collision with a Chinese warship maneuvering nearby, the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

US, Chinese Warships Narrowly Avoid Collision in South China Sea

The incident came as the USS Cowpens was operating in the vicinity of China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, at a time of heightened tensions in the region following Beijing's declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone farther north in the East China Sea, a US defense official said.

Another Chinese warship maneuvered near the Cowpens in the incident on December 5, and the Cowpens was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision, the Pacific Fleet said in its statement.

"Eventually, effective bridge-to-bridge communications occurred between the US and Chinese crews, and both vessels maneuvered to ensure safe passage," a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in an email.

The Cowpens had been in the Philippines helping with disaster relief in the aftermath of the massive typhoon that hit the region in November. The US Navy said it was conducting regular freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea when the incident occurred.

China deployed the Liaoning to the South China Sea for maneuvers in the midsts of the tensions over the air zone, which covers air space around a group of tiny islands in the East China Sea that are administered by Japan but claimed by Beijing as well.

Beijing declared the air zone late last month and demanded that aircraft flying through it provide flight plans and other information. The United States and its allies rejected the Chinese demand and have continued to fly military aircraft into the zone.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea and is involved in territorial disputes with several of its neighbors in that region as well.

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