US Warship Narrowly Avoids Chinese Vessel Collision In South China Sea

A US warship took evasive action to prevent a collision with a Chinese vessel in the South China Sea last week. The maritime near-miss involved the USS Cowpens, a guided missile cruiser. The US warship was operating near the Liaoning, China’s new and only aircraft carrier on December 5. A Chinese warship changed course to cross paths with the USS Cowpens after asking the US ship to leave the area. Quick action prevented a possible impact.

The recent incident comes as tensions in the region are on the rise. As reported on The Inquisitr, several weeks ago China publicly announced a newly redefined air defense zone. The new airspace came to include the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands north of Taiwan. The small pair of islands are claimed by both Japan and China. Vice President Joe Biden said last week that the US would not respect China’s redrawing of their air defense zone.

December 5’s near collision was essentially a game of chicken being played by the Chinese navy. Suspicious of the US warship’s close proximity to their only aircraft carrier, they told the USS Cowpens to leave. Noting that they were operating in international waters, the US warship declined to change course. A Chinese warship was then dispatched to intersect with the Cowpens’ course.

According to a defense official, the two vessels eventually opened bridge-to-bridge communications. The US warship warned the Chinese crew that their vessel was coming dangerously close. Finally, the Cowpens commander ordered an “all stop” less than 500 yards away. The Chinese warship continued on its course, past the Cowpens.

A US official remarked that the incident was “unusual.” A second official believes that “the Chinese knew what they were doing” by challenging the US warship.

Military officials in the US say the USS Cowpens had aided disaster relief in the Philippines following November’s deadly typhoon. They have neither confirmed nor denied claims that the US warship’s mission last week involved spying on the Liaoning.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons / US Navy]