The US warship Decatur nearly collided with a PRC Navy vessel while performing a freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea on Sunday. According to a US Navy spokesperson, the Decatur was forced to adjust course at the last minute after a Luyang-class warship came within 41 meters of its bow.
The incident generated familiar recriminations from both sides, with various US official statements decrying the maneuver as unsafe, unprofessional, and aggressive, and the Chinese side maintaining that the PRC Navy was acting in full accordance with international law (Beijing views the disputed islands as its sovereign territory).
Sunday wasn’t the first time that the two militaries have had a near miss in the South China Sea. However, with numerous signs of growing animosity and military assertiveness emanating from both sides of the Pacific, it follows that the Decatur incident is a sign of things to come.