Liaoning aircraft carrier

Carrier commander spoke to US ship captain after near collision

Liaoning commander had 'professional' conversation with Cowpens counterpart following close call between carrier escort and US cruiser

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 3:21pm

The captain of aircraft carrier Liaoning had a brief, "professional" conversation with the commanding officer of the USS Cowpens after the near collision earlier this month between the American warship and a Chinese vessel.

The radio discussion between the two captains was one of several new details about the December 5 incident reported yesterday by the Global Times, a tabloid newspaper affiliated with the People's Daily.

The paper, citing an unidentified person, said that the Liaoning's commanding officer, Zhang Zheng, spoke directly to the Cowpens captain after the US missile cruiser was forced to stop in the South China Sea to avoid a collision with a Chinese ship from the Liaoning squadron.

The person told the paper that the American ship was bound to get a warning, since the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration had declared a month-long entry ban on the area on December 3 to accommodate exercises by the carrier group.

The US government has filed a formal protest over the incident, saying that the Cowpens was in international waters.

Two amphibious Chinese ships from the Liaoning squadron were sent to investigate after the US ship entered the drill area. One sounded a warning whistle, but it was ignored, the newspaper said.

The Chinese ships then sailed into the Cowpens' path to stop it, forcing the US captain to order a complete stop to avoid collision.

The newspaper also quoted an anonymous US defence official as saying that communications between the two sides was "very professional". It said another US defence official later told the Chinese side that maintaining communications could reduce the chance of mistakes.

The Chinese defence ministry has yet to issue a formal response to the naval close-call, but the Global Times has revealed numerous details about the incident for two consecutive days.

The newspaper said on Monday that the Cowpens had been getting too close to a drill, and said it was "coming to China's threshold and posing a threat to China's military security".

The Global Times said yesterday that the encounter appeared to have had no immediate impact on military ties between the two countries and China's East Sea Fleet is preparing to join the Rim of the Pacific Exercise next year, the world's largest international naval drills.

Jia Xiudong , a senior research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, called the US "the bad guy who slung the first accusations".

Jia said the US Navy was aware of the drill and still made the dangerous decision to follow Liaoning because it was holding its first exercises in the South China Sea since being commissioned last year.

"How China reacted was normal and expected," Jia said.

An earlier version of this article misidentified Liaoning as a warship and USS Cowpens as a carrier. The error was introduced during editing process