Weeks after a showdown in the South China Sea, the Navy’s top officer says the US and China will ‘meet more and more on high seas’


JAKARTA (Reuters) – Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said on Tuesday the US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas” after a Chinese warship came close to a US ship in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur during a “freedom of navigation” sail in late September, US Vice President Mike Pence said this month.

The US mission was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese, and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

“China’s aggression was on display this week,” Pence said after the incident, vowing that the US “will not stand down.”

China’s Harbin (112) guided missile destroyer takes part in a week-long China-Russia navy exercise
China’s Harbin guided-missile destroyer during a China-Russia navy exercise.AP Photo
In the weeks since, a US Navy research ship has visited Taiwan and two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has bolstered its presence around the island country.

In mid-October, during a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US and its partners in the region would “continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand.”

“We cannot accept [China’s] militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region,” he added.

Data gathered by the US Defense Department also shows Chinese ships have entered foreign Exclusive Economic Zones, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast, despite its own frequent protests about other countries doing that in areas claimed by Beijing.