WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Russia accused each other of unsafe actions after an American guided-missile cruiser and a Russian destroyer came within 165 feet (50 meters) of each other in the Philippine Sea on Friday.
The U.S. will file a formal diplomatic complaint about the incident and will have military to military conversations with the Russians, said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. He added that the encounter will not deter the U.S. from conducting naval operations.
The U.S. 7th Fleet said the Russian destroyer put the safety of the USS Chancellorsville and its crew at risk, forcing it to reverse all engines at full throttle to avoid a collision.
No injuries were reported, and the ships never came into contact, said Navy Cdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Japan-based 7th Fleet.
The Chancellor was traveling on a steady course as an American helicopter was preparing to land on the vessel. The Russian destroyer, traveling behind the U.S. ship, started moving faster and approached as close as 50-100 feet (15-30 meters), the 7th Fleet said in a statement.
“We consider Russia’s actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional and not in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), ‘Rules of the Road,’ and internationally recognized maritime customs,” the statement said.
It was the first such incident involving warships in the region since September, when the Chinese warship Luoyang maneuvered close to the USS Decatur, a Navy destroyed, in the South China Sea. This incident was also labeled unprofessional and unsafe by the U.S.
In this latest incident, in open ocean northeast of the Philippines, the Russian military accused the Chancellorsville of making a dangerous maneuver by crossing the path of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov. The U.S. said the incident happened in the Philippine Sea, while the Russians said it was in the East China Sea, which is further west and closer to China.
The Russian military said in a statement that the U.S. cruiser “suddenly changed direction and crossed the path of Admiral Vinogradov just 50 meters (165 feet) away,” forcing the crew of the Russian ship to make a quick maneuver to avoid a collision. It said its navy sent a radio message in protest.