Liaoning aircraft carrier

Beijing plays down stand-off with US warship in South China Sea

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 11:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 4:21am

The defence ministry said yesterday that its relationship with the Pentagon remains on the right track, despite a near-collision between Chinese and American warships earlier this month.

In its first official statement on the tense December 5 encounter, the Ministry of National Defence said the USS Cowpens and an escort ship for the aircraft carrier Liaoning resolved the situation properly.

"The Chinese naval vessels properly handled the encounter in accordance with strict operation protocol," the ministry said. "Defence departments of both nations have informed each other of the situation through normal working channels in an effective manner."

The near miss occurred after the Cowpens passed by an area where the Liaoning was conducting naval exercises. Two Chinese escort ships confronted the Cowpens, which was forced to stop to avoid a collision.

The incident comes at a time of growing maritime tensions in the East and South China seas, where China is embroiled in several territorial disputes with its neighbours. The US filed a formal protest over the incident, saying that the Cowpens was in international waters.

The ministry said the Chinese and American militaries continue to work towards building a strong relationship, despite media reports saying that the near collision had damaged ties. "Both sides are willing to step up communication and co-ordination, making contributions to regional peace and stability," it said.