A US Navy warship colliding with a Chinese vessel could spark the beginning of a South China Sea war, warns James Holmes, Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. Although the prospect sounds hypothetical, a similar event took place in 2001 when a Chinese fighter jet slammed unto a US Navy EP-3 surveillance plane. Mr Holmes said the incident sparked “a diplomatic crisis between the Chinese Communist Party leadership and the newly installed administration of President George W. Bush.”
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He continued: “This aerial encounter furnished advance warning of what might happen on the surface below.”
Last week, another close encounter took place that sparked new tensions between the two nations.
A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 052C destroyer cut across the bow of US destroyer, USS Decateur.
The incident took place when the Decateur made a close pass by Gaven Reef in the South China Sea.
Mr Holmes said: “Estimates vary, but it appears the PLAN ship passed somewhere within 45 feet and 45 yards of its American counterpart — compelling the Decatur bridge crew to manoeuver to avoid collision.”
If the two vessels had collided, it could have triggered a catastrophic series of events.
It comes as this week, Indonesia sunk dozens of foreign boats to deter illegal fishing in its waters bordering the South China Sea.
As many as 51 boats were sunk by Indonesia’s authorities as a warning to other nations.