The Russian military on Tuesday threatened to ram a U.S. Navy ship that was conducting freedom-of-navigation operations in the Sea of Japan, the latest in a series of close military encounters between the two nations.
The U.S. Navy said that the USS John S. McCain was sailing in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan as a way to challenge “Russia’s excessive maritime claims” in the region. Russian forces then warned the American vessel to vacate the area, claiming that it had crossed about a mile into Russian territorial waters.
“The Pacific Fleet’s Admiral Vinogradov anti-submarine destroyer used an international communication channel to warn the foreign vessel that such actions were unacceptable and the violator could be forced out of the country’s territorial waters in a ramming maneuver,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “After the warming was issued and the Admiral Vinogradov changed its course, the USS John S. McCain destroyer returned to international waters.”
The U.S. Navy, however, painted the situation differently. American officials said the operation was meant to demonstrate that Washington does not accept a 106-mile closing line along the Great Bay that Moscow has claimed as its own territory since 1984.
“By drawing this closing line, the U.S.S.R. attempted to claim more internal waters — and territorial sea farther from shore — than it is entitled to claim under international law,” the Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement. “Russia has continued the U.S.S.R. claim. By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia’s territorial sea and that the United States does not acquiesce in Russia’s claim that Peter the Great is a ‘historic bay’ under international law.”
The Navy statement did not say whether the Russian military had in fact threatened to ram the U.S. vessel out of the area.
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