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Russia claims it chased a U.S. warship out of disputed waters with a "ramming" threat

Moscow — Russia's defense ministry claimed on Tuesday that one of its warships had caught a U.S. Navy destroyer operating in Russia's Pacific territorial waters and chased it off. The U.S. Navy issued a statement describing the incident as the latest "freedom of navigation operation," challenging what the U.S. considers illegitimate territorial claims by other nations, but it did not provide details on how it ended or whether there was any action considered unsafe by Russian forces.

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The USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea in a January 2017 file photo. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez

The USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, violated Russia's territorial waters by moving less than two miles beyond the maritime border at 0317 GMT into Peter the Great Gulf, the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The American warship had been operating for several days in the Sea of Japan and was being tracked by Russia, it said.

The Admiral Vinogradov, an anti-submarine destroyer in Russia's Pacific Fleet, sent a warning to the U.S. ship and threatened to "use a ramming maneuver to drive the intruder out of its territorial waters."

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The Russian anti-submarine ship, the Admiral Vinogradov, enters the port of Vladivostok, Russia, in an April 2009 file photo. AP

The U.S. ship immediately returned to neutral waters, the Russian ministry claimed, and was being monitored.

The U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet said in a statement that the USS John S. McCain had "asserted navigational rights" in the area "by challenging Russia's excessive maritime claims."

It gave no details but said the U.S. ship had been operating in the vicinity of the Peter the Great Gulf in an area the U.S. does not recognize as Russian territorial waters.
 
The area has been in dispute since 1984, when the Soviet Union declared it part of its waters, a claim that Russia has maintained.

Such incidents at sea are uncommon and a sign of continued post-Cold War tensions between Russia and the United States.

Last year the two countries traded accusations of dangerous maneuvers after the Admiral Vinogradov came close to a collision with the USS Chancellorsville in the East China Sea. The   U.S. Navy labeled that incident "unsafe and unprofessional" action by the Russian vessel.

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