YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan -- Photos of an encounter between a Navy guided-missile destroyer and Chinese warship shed light on just how close the ships came to colliding Sunday in the South China Sea.
Naval website gCaptain.com published a series of photos Tuesday showing the USS Decatur and the People's Republic of China destroyer Luyang passing each other during the confrontation. The Chinese ship appears to veer close to the Decatur before the U.S. ship pulls away to avoid a collision.
A Navy official confirmed to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that the photos are legitimate, but said it is unknown how the website got access to the images, which were not publicly released.
The incident happened about 8:30 a.m. Sunday when the Luyang sailed within 45 yards of the Decatur in "an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver," the Navy said Monday. It happened in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, which are a source of contention in the region as China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines each claim land masses in the area and dispute their sovereignty.
The Decatur was conducting a routine patrol of the region at the time -- something the Navy regularly does to ensure freedom of navigation through the contested international waters.
Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gordon, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement earlier this week that "the PRC destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for [the] Decatur to depart the area" during the encounter.
"The PRC destroyer approached within 45 yards of [the] Decatur's bow, after which [the] Decatur maneuvered to prevent a collision," he said in the statement.
The Navy is now determining whether it will officially release of the images to the public.