Hagel: China warship action 'irresponsible'

Chuck Hagel speaks at a reporters' briefing at the Pentagon, 19 December 2013 Chuck Hagel said the near-miss could "set off some eventual miscalculation"

Related Stories

China was "irresponsible" and "unhelpful" during the near-collision of a US warship and a Chinese naval vessel, the US Defence Secretary said.

Chuck Hagel said the Chinese boat cut in front of USS Cowpens on 5 December, and described the act as "incendiary".

China, who described the incident as an "encounter", said the incident was handled with "strict protocol".

It has been described as the most serious Sino-US confrontation in the South China Sea since 2009.

The US said its guided missile cruiser was operating in international waters when a Chinese navy vessel forced it to take evasive action.

But China claims parts of the South China Sea, and state-run newspaper Global Times quoted an expert as saying that the US boat had been "harassing" China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as it carried out drills.

File photo: Chinese naval soldiers on board China's aircraft carrier Liaoning, 30 November 2013 The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, was on its first voyage into the South China Sea

Mr Hagel told reporters: "That action by the Chinese, cutting their ship 100 yards [91m; 300ft] out in front of the [USS] Cowpens, was not a responsible action."

He said the incident was "the kind of thing that's very incendiary, that could be a trigger or a spark that could set off some eventual miscalculation."

"Some kind of a mechanism" was needed "to defuse some of these issues as they occur", he added.

In a statement on Wednesday, China's defence ministry said the two ships met during a "routine patrol" by one of China's naval vessels.

"The Chinese naval vessel strictly followed protocol and handled the incident," it said.

"The two defence departments used normal working channels to stay informed about the situation and communicated effectively."

The Liaoning - which is China's first aircraft carrier - was making its first voyage into the South China Sea, an area in which Beijing has multiple overlapping territorial claims with South East Asian nations.

The incident came amid tensions after China established an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over a swathe of the East China Sea, including disputed islands controlled by Japan.

Map of South China Sea

More on This Story

Related Stories

More China stories

RSS

Features

  • ScissorsWithout Scotland?

    How might things change for the rest of the UK?


  • Diagrams showing bowler and batsmanAnyone for Vigoro?

    The bizarre Edwardian attempt to merge tennis and cricket


  • Payton McKinnonKilling heat

    Why so many American children die in hot cars


  • Dr Mahinder Watsa Dr Sex

    The wisecracking 90-year-old whose agony column is a cult hit


  • Prince George and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside St Mary'sIn pictures

    Prince George has had an eventful first year


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.