Alarming photo shows near-collision
AUSTRALIA has voiced its concerns after shocking pictures exposed a near-collision between a US navy ship and a Chinese vessel in the South China Sea.
The US Navy released a series of photos showing the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Decatur almost crashing into the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer Lanzhou.
The images below show just how close the vessels came to colliding.
In an official statement, the US Navy said Lanzhou came within 40m of the American vessel during the September 30 incident.
It said one of its ships almost collided with a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, in an "unsafe and unprofessional manoeuvre".
China claims most of the strategic waterway and has built islands on reefs and equipped them with military facilities such as airstrips, radar domes and missile systems.
Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the region.
The Chinese defence ministry said yesterday it opposes the US warship's entry into the waters "around China's islands and reefs".
Beijing confirmed that the Luoyang, a Chinese missile destroyer, was immediately deployed to identify the US warship and drive it away.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it strongly urged the US to stop its "provocative" actions.
Australia has weighed in to the conflict, with PM Scott Morrison saying the nation will aim to provide a calming influence on rising tensions between the two countries.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to see stability and prosperity in the region continue.
"We're cool heads in this situation," Mr Morrison told 6PR today. "Times of uncertainty are exactly that and it's our job to work with everybody to reduce that uncertainty. That's what we're doing."
Mr Morrison said Australia has strong relationships with both countries, vowing to work for the best strategic outcomes for the national interest.
"The prosperity of our region has been a major boon for Australia and we want to see that continue."
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has warned against aggression in the region, labelling the dispute in the South China Sea concerning.
"We would view any use of intimidation or aggressive tactics as destabilising and potentially dangerous," he said in a statement. "Australia has consistently expressed concern over ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea and we continue to urge all claimants to refrain from unilateral actions that would increase tension in the region."
Relations between the US and China have deteriorated recently over an escalating trade dispute and military issues.
But ties have worsened in recent weeks with a US decision to issue economic sanctions over the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment.
Beijing said the US had no right to interfere in Chinese military co-operation with Russia. In response to the sanctions, China summoned the American ambassador and defence attache to deliver a protest, and recalled its navy commander from a US trip.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has since dropped plans to visit China in October for talks.