The U.S. military released video on Monday of a close encounter between a Chinese navy ship and an American destroyer in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) reported China’s “unsafe maneuver” on Saturday, but did not release the video footage until early Monday morning, in which a Chinese navy ship can be seen cutting sharply across the path of USS Chung-Hoon. The destroyer had to slow down to 10 knots to avoid a collision.
USS Chung-Hoon and Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal were conducting a “freedom of navigation” transit of the strait between Taiwan and China’s mainland – waters that are considered international to the U.S. and its allies, but an “exclusive economic zone” to China.
USINDOPACOM said China’s “actions violated the maritime ‘Rules of the Road’ of safe passage in international waters.”
“Chung-Hoon and Montreal’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the combined U.S.-Canadian commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the USINDOPACOM said. “The U.S. military flies, sails, and operates safely and responsibly anywhere international law allows.”
On Saturday, the Chinese guided-missile destroyer overtook the Chung-Hoon on its port side then veered across its bow at a distance of approximately 150 yards, according to the USINDOPACOM. The Chinese ship then straightened out and began sailing in a parallel direction.
HMCS Montreal Commander Paul Mountford described the move as “not professional,” adding that it was “clearly instigated by the Chinese,” according to Global News.
“The fact this was announced over the radio prior to doing it, clearly indicated this was intentional,” he said. “I am hoping that is an isolated incident that won’t happen again for us, because we have international law on our side. This is international waters.”
A similar maneuver was not attempted on the Canadian warship, which was sailing behind Chung-Hoon.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin defended the move, saying it was undertaken “in accordance with the law.”
“China’s military actions are completely justified, lawful, safe and professional,” he told reporters in Beijing. “It is the U.S. that should deeply reflect upon itself and correct the wrongdoings.”
Saturday’s incident marked the second time the U.S. accused China of being “unnecessarily aggressive” in the past week after a Chinese J-16 fighter jet flew directly in front of the nose of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea on Tuesday.
At a time when tensions in the region are high, the close calls have raised concerns that a possible accident could lead to an escalation between the two countries.
The Chinese also disregarded Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone by deploying a research ship along with five escort vessels last month to an area where a Russian state firm jointly operates a gas block with Hanoi in the energy rich South China Sea.
The near miss in the Taiwan Strait took place the same day as an annual defense conference in Singapore attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu.
Li suggested the U.S. and its allies have created the danger with the patrols, accusing them of being intent on provoking China.
“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
Austin had invited Li to talk on the sidelines of the conference, according to The Associated Press, but Li refused.
Fox News Digital’s Brie Stimson, Liz Friden and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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