U.S. Navy officials say a Chinese warship almost collided with the San Diego-based USS Cowpens in the international waters of the South China Sea on Dec. 5.
However, China has a different story, according to The Associated Press, with a state-run newspaper claiming on Sunday the Cowpens was tailing and harassing the Chinese ship.
The Chinese paper, called Global Times, claims the Cowpens "posed a threat" to China's security:
"As China's strength grows, the US should learn to communicate with and respect China if it doesn't want a collision on the sea or in the air."
But the Navy insists the Cowpens was on the receiving end of the intimidation. An unnamed military official told Stars and Stripes:
“I don’t know the intent of the guy driving that PLA (People's Liberation Army) ship. I just know that he was moving to impede and harass the Cowpens.
I mean, from my perspective, having him stop in the middle of the South China Sea is kind of dumb … [The Chinese saying] ‘Go away, get out of here’ [would make more sense]. But ‘stop’ doesn’t really do anything because all that does is just maintain the status quo.”
The official statement on the mishap from the U.S. military came last Friday, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet released a statement that read:
“While lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision.
"This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap."
Lyle J. Goldstein, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island, explained to The New York Times that he found the near collision disconcerting:
“This illustrates the anxieties between the United States and China, and it is very troubling.
“International politics on both sides call for ratcheting up of tensions, and I don’t see either side finding compromises. Neither side knows the other’s red lines.”