US, Chinese warships narrowly avoid collision in South China Sea

A US guided missile cruiseroperating in international waters in the South China Sea wasforced to take evasive action last week to avoid a collisionwith a Chinese warship maneuvering nearby, the US PacificFleet said in a statement on Friday.

The incident came as the USS Cowpens was operating in thevicinity of China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, at atime of heightened tensions in the region following Beijing'sdeclaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone farther northin the East China Sea, a US defense official said.

Another Chinese warship maneuvered near the Cowpens in theincident on Dec. 5, and the Cowpens was forced to take evasiveaction to avoid a collision, the Pacific Fleet said in itsstatement.

"Eventually, effective bridge-to-bridge communicationsoccurred between the US and Chinese crews, and both vesselsmaneuvered to ensure safe passage," a defense official, speakingon condition of anonymity, said in an email.

The Cowpens had been in the Philippines helping withdisaster relief in the aftermath of the massive typhoon that hitthe region in November. The US Navy said it was conductingregular freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Seawhen the incident occurred.

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