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A U.S. combat ship used agreed codes for unplanned encounters when it met a Chinese vessel during a recent patrol of the contested South China Sea, according to the vice chief of naval operations.

The USS Fort Worth met a Chinese military vessel near the disputed Spratly islands, Adm. Michelle Howard told reporters on Tuesday in Singapore. Its patrol this month was the first time a U.S. Littoral Combat Ship operated in waters around the islands, which are claimed by countries including China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

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