US destroyer, Chinese warship in 'unsafe' interaction near disputed islands: report

US destroyer, Chinese warship in 'unsafe' interaction near disputed islands: report
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A U.S. destroyer had an “unsafe” interaction with a Chinese military vessel that came toward it aggressively during maneuvers near disputed islands in the South China Sea, a Navy spokesman said.

China's Luyang destroyer approached the USS Decatur "in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea" on Sunday, Capt. Charlie Brown, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, told The Hill in a statement Monday

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"The [Chinese] destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for [Decatur] to depart the area," Brown said, adding that the Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the Decatur's bow, after which the U.S. ship "maneuvered to prevent a collision."

A U.S. defense official told The Hill Sunday that the Decatur's movements near the Gaven and Johnson Reefs off the Spratly islands were part of “routine and regular freedom-of-navigation operations.” 

"U.S. Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea," the official added.

The U.S. often conducts military movements in disputed areas of the South China Sea and East China Sea, to which China usually responds indignantly.

U.S. B-52 bombers flew over both last week, according to statements from the U.S. military.

China responded by calling those moves "provocative."

"We are always resolutely opposed to them, and will continue to take necessary measures in order to strongly handle (this issue)," Chinese defense ministry spokesmen Ren Guoqiang said last Thursday, AFP reported.

Tensions have been building between the two countries as they spar over trade and security issues.

Beijing canceled a meeting with Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE on Monday and signed on last week to a plan along with Russia and the European Union to undercut U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Last Wednesday, President Trump accused China of trying to interfere in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, which China has denied.

The political and military maneuvering comes as the world's two largest economies continue to trade tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other's goods.

Updated at 1:37 p.m.