Washington recently imposed sanctions on the Chinese military due to the fact it bought weapons from Russian Federation, while Donald Trump is involved in a tit-for-tat trade war with the Chinese government regarding tariffs on a host of goods.
The Decatur had sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly chain as part of the United States' FONOP program.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China's excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing close to the Paracel Islands.
The Chinese Navy "destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for DECATUR to depart the area", Brown added. The Chinese destroyer came closer than half a football field from the Decatur's bow, forcing the USA ship to maneuver to avoid impact, Gorman said.
The United States has for years routinely patrolled the seas as part of what it calls "freedom of navigation operations". "The Chinese army is firmly opposed to this".
"The USS Decatur guided missile destroyer arbitrarily entered waters off China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea on September 30", said Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, noting that a Chinese Navy vessel carried out identification and verification procedures and warned the US vessel off, Xinhua news agency reported.
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According to another USA 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. Xi, who told President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the artificial islands, has now clearly broken his promise as Chinese military bases, runways, and even nuclear plants, in worldwide, Vietnamese, and Philippine territory continue to spring up monthly on the man-made land.
The incident would have contravened the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea that was agreed to by China, the usa and other countries in 2014, said Collin Koh Swee Lean, research fellow at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
"The Chinese military resolutely opposes such actions", he said, adding that China respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and overflight in the SCS in accordance with worldwide law, but resolutely opposes any illegal provocation in the name of 'freedom of navigation'.
While the the notion of a shooting war between the U.S. and China may seem remote to casual observers, some market observers have noted the time honored progression of economic tensions like trade wars and currency wars eventually leading to a full-on hot war.
The unsafe and aggressive manoeuvres by the USA and Chinese ships took place amid the trade war between the world's two largest economies. When the USA destroyer approached one of the Gaven Reefs near the disputed islands, China dispatched a Luyang-class destroyer to escort the American warship away. "We are winning at every level", Trump said at a U.N. Security Council meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi seated nearby.
Simmering tensions have led U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to drop his plan to visit China later in October, according to U.S. media.
Beijing last month refused a USA warship entry to Hong Kong, and its top naval officer canceled a high-level meeting with his US counterpart.