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US cruiser confronted by PLA ship in South China Sea

The USS Cowpens, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, confronted a PLA tank-landing ship in the South China Sea when trying to monitor the movements of China's aircraft carrier Liaoning on Dec. 5, reports China's Global Times.

A US naval official told the Washington Free Beacon the USS Cowpens and the PLA ship had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. "This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap," said the official.

A Pentagon source told Reuters that the distance between two vessels was less than 500 meters at one point. The primary mission for the USS Cowpens at that time was to conduct surveillance of the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, which in late November sailed from its home port in Qingdao to the South China Sea via the Taiwan Strait to conduct training exercises.

The US State Department has lodged a protest with Beijing through both diplomatic and military channels. A State Department official said the run-in occurred after the PLA ship hailed the USS Cowpens and ordered it to change its course. The cruiser refused the order and continued on its course as it was operating in international waters, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The PLA ship then placed itself on a course in front of USS Cowpens and forced the cruiser to abruptly change direction. The official called the PLA ship's move a dangerous maneuver.

The Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid published under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, blamed the United States for the incident. "For a long period of time, the term 'freedom of navigation' has become an excuse for the US military to harass the legal movements of our naval vessels near the China coast," the paper said. China claims all islands and archipelagos in the South China Sea as its own and regards the maritime region as China's exclusive economic zone.

[Source: WantChina Times, Taiwan, 14Dec13]

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East China Sea Conflict
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