Russia said one of its military ships chased away a U.S. naval destroyer that tried to violate Russian territorial waters during Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Sea of Japan on Friday, something Washington said was false.
The U.S. military said the guided-missile destroyer Chafee was conducting routine operations in international waters in the Sea of Japan when a Russian destroyer came within 65 yards (60 meters) of the U.S. ship, although all interactions were safe and professional.
“The Russian Ministry of Defense’s claim of interaction between our two Navy ships is false,” the U.S. military statement said.
“At all times, the USS Chafee conducted operations in accordance with international law and customs,” it added.
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said the crew of a Russian anti-submarine ship, the Admiral Tributs, had radioed the Chafee that it was “in an area closed to navigation due to exercises with artillery fire.”
The U.S. destroyer did not change course and instead raised flags indicating it was preparing to launch a helicopter from its deck, so it was unable to turn or change speed, the Russian ministry said in a statement.
“Acting within the framework of international navigation rules, the Admiral Tributs set course to drive the intruder out of Russian territorial waters,” it said.
The Chafee ended up changing course when the two vessels were within 60 meters of each other, it said. The incident lasted about 50 minutes and took place in Peter the Great Bay, west of the Sea of Japan.
The RIA news agency said the Russian Defense Ministry summoned the U.S. military attaché, who was informed of the “unprofessional actions” of the destroyer’s crew, which had “grossly violated international laws on the prevention of collisions of ships at sea.”
It is the second time in four months that Russia says it has expelled a NATO member warship from its waters. In June, Russia accused a British destroyer of violating its territorial waters off Crimea in the Black Sea and said it had forced it away. Britain rejected Moscow’s version of that incident, saying at the time that its ship was operating legally in Ukrainian waters.
Earlier on Friday, Russia said it had conducted joint naval drills with China in the Sea of Japan and practiced how to operate together and destroy floating enemy mines with artillery fire.
Relations between Russia and the United States are at their post-Cold War low point, although President Vladimir Putin said this week that he had established a strong relationship with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden and saw potential for ties to improve.