Chinese and U.S. warships in South China Sea close encounter

The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur returns to its homeport Naval Base San Diego after completing a seven-month deployment Nov. 14 2016

A Chinese destroyer performed an "unsafe" maneuver during an encounter with a U.S. Navy warship in the disputed South China Sea over the weekend, coming within 40 meters (45 yards) of the American vessel's bow and forcing it to steer the ship away to prevent a collision, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Xi, who told President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the artificial islands, has now clearly broken his promise as Chinese military bases, runways, and even nuclear plants, in global, Vietnamese, and Philippine territory continue to spring up monthly on the man-made land.

"The US has repeatedly sent warships into the territorial waters near Chinese reefs and islands in the South China Sea", it said.

The United States has said the destroyer was conducting a "freedom of navigation" mission into oceanic territory as it seeks to reject maritime claims by multiple countries.

An official U.S. statement described the move by the Chinese destroyer as "unsafe" because it moved within 41 metres of the United States warship.

In a maneuver officials are calling "unsafe and unprofessional", the Chinese ship, a Luyang-class guided missile destroyer, forced the USS Decatur to change course to avoid a collision, CNN reported.

China's defence ministry said the Chinese vessel was conducting "normal patrols" when the two vessels "met", adding that the countries' defence departments "carried out effective communication".

The Chinese defence ministry said it opposes the USA warship's entry into the waters "around China's islands and reefs".

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

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A USA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mattis was no longer going to China.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement it strongly urged the United States to stop such "provocative" actions and to "immediately correct its mistakes".

Washington and Beijing hit each other with the largest round of tariffs yet last week, now covering roughly half their goods traded.

Though U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis played down recent disputes with China, a senior defense official told Fox News on Monday that Mattis would not be going to China, as had been previously planned.

US-Chinese relations have been strained on multiple levels since Donald Trump became president in 2017. Chinese officials rescinded the invitation, the US official said.

Meanwhile, China has canceled two high-level security meetings with U.S. defence officials in the past week.

China, however, claims a huge area, known as the "nine-dash line", and routinely accuses the US Navy of provocation and interference in regional matters.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is due to visit the United States later this year but China's Defence Ministry suggested last week that may not happen.

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