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Chinese ships collide: Near-crash of Chinese warship, US missile carrier Cowpens

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After a Chinese ship almost collided with the missile-carrying cruiser USS Cowpens, the tension between the two navies is increasing. “The Chinese vessel cut across the bow of the America ship at a distance of less than 200 yards, the defense official said. The vessel was similar to an American tank landing ship and was accompanying the aircraft carrier,” reported The New York Times on Dec. 14, 2016.

On Dec. 5, the USS Cowpens (CG-63), a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, was in the South China Sea in international waters observing the Liaoning, a Chinese carrier, as it made its first voyage from its home base in Qingdao, the headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.

In an apparently unexpected move, one of the Chinese warships accompanying the Liaoning, broke away from the group of other Chinese warships and approached the U.S. missile carrier USS Cowpens.

Despite a radio warning from the USS Cowpens, the Chinese ship failed to stop.

When the approaching Chinese warship was less than 500 yards off the bow of the U.S. missile ship, the Cowpens’ commanding officer issued orders for an “all stop" in order to avoid a collision with the Chinese ship.The close proximity between the two warships was a tense situation because it takes some time and distance before a warship is able to stop.

The incident of the near collision between the Chinese warship and the USS Cowpens was not made public until last Friday.

On Saturday, a senior United States defense official called the near-collision between the Chinese warship and the USS Cowpens “particularly aggressive.”

Another U.S. military official commented that “the Chinese knew what they were doing.”

While the information office at the Chinese Ministry of National Defense did not immediately respond to the incident of the near-collision between the Chinese warship and the USS Cowpens, experts are saying that even though U.S. officials insist the USS Cowpens remained in international waters at all times, its proximity to the Chinese warship allowed the missile carrier to conduct surveillance on the Liaoning, which would be a sensitive matter for the Chinese.

Following the near-collision between the Chinese warship and the USS Cowpens, Lyle J. Goldstein, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College in Rhode Island, pointed out that “this illustrates the anxieties between the United States and China, and it is very troubling. International politics on both sides call for ratcheting up of tensions, and I don’t see either side finding compromises. Neither side knows the other’s red lines.”

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