WASHINGTON – Russia said one of its military vessels chased away a U.S. Navy destroyer that attempted to violate Russian territorial waters during Russian-Chinese naval drills in the Sea of Japan on Friday, something Washington said was false.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that at around 5 p.m. local time, the destroyer USS Chafee, which had been operating in the Sea of Japan for several days, “approached the territorial waters of the Russian Federation and attempted to cross the border.”
Russia’s Admiral Tributs destroyer issued a warning to the U.S. ship “about the inadmissibility of such actions.”
However, the USS Chafee ignored the warning and “took action to violate the national border of the Russian Federation,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“Acting within the framework of the international rules of navigation, the Admiral Tributs set a course for ousting the intruder from the Russian territorial waters.”
After that, the USS Chafee turned around and set off “on the opposite course” when it was less than 60 meters away from the Russian ship.
It said the incident lasted about 50 minutes and took place in Peter the Great Bay in the west of the Sea of Japan.
The U.S. Navy dismissed the Russian account as “false.”
It said in a statement that its ship “was conducting routine operations in international water in the Sea of Japan” when a Russian destroyer came within approximately 65 yards (60 meters) of the USS Chafee “while the ship was preparing for flight operations.”
“The interaction was safe and professional,” the U.S. Navy said.
The U.S. Navy acknowledged that Russia had notified it that it was conducting maneuvers in the area, but the notice “was not in effect at the time of the interaction.”
The U.S. ship “conducted operations in accordance with international law and custom,” the statement read. “The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate where international law allows.”
The RIA news agency said the Russian Defense Ministry had summoned the U.S. military attache, who was told of the “unprofessional actions” of the destroyer’s crew, which had “rudely violated international laws on the prevention of collisions of vessels at sea.”
It was the second time in four months Russia has said it chased a NATO-member warship from its waters. In June, Russia accused a British destroyer of breaching its territorial waters off Crimea in the Black Sea, and said it had forced it away. Britain rejected Moscow’s account of that incident, saying at the time its ship was operating lawfully in Ukrainian waters.
Incidents involving the Russian Navy are rare in the Pacific. The region is dominated by China, which takes a dim view of the United States and its allies patrolling the region’s international waters to assert their right to freedom of navigation.
Earlier on Friday, Russia said it had held joint naval drills with China in the Sea of Japan and practiced how to operate together and destroy floating enemy mines with artillery fire.
Relations between Russia and the United States are at post-Cold War lows, although President Vladimir Putin said this week he had established a solid relationship with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden and saw potential for ties to improve.
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