The U.S. military has released a video showing a close encounter between a Chinese warship and an American destroyer in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement Sunday night that it shows the Chinese navy ship "execute maneuvers in an unsafe manner."
China defended its actions Monday, saying it always respects international law. Beijing has long asserted that the strait is part of its "exclusive economic zone," not international waters.
The incident is the latest in a long series of flare-ups between the two countries over Taiwan, a self-governing island that China considers to be part of its territory.
The U.S. said the video showed the Chinese ship overtaking the USS Chung-Hoon and forcing it to slow its course to avoid a collision, a violation of the maritime "rules of the road."
The U.S. has said the Chinese ship came within 150 yards of the USS Chung-Hoon while it was conducting routine duties in the strait — which separates China and Taiwan — alongside a Canadian frigate, the HMCS Montreal, on Saturday.
"Chung-Hoon and Montreal’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the combined U.S.-Canadian commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," the statement added. "The U.S. military flies, sails, and operates safely and responsibly anywhere international law allows."
Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that China's actions were lawful and that the U.S. "needs to reflect on the mistakes they made."
In response to a question from NBC News, Wang said at a daily briefing: “I want to stress that China always respects the right of navigation and overflight all countries are entitled to under international law. We have adopted responses that are justified, lawful, safe and professional.”
China’s defense minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, defended his fleet's actions at a conference of defense officials from around the world Sunday, saying that while China doesn’t oppose “lawful navigation,” it saw some international patrols as a provocation.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday at the conference, called the Shangri-La Dialogue, that the U.S. would not “flinch in the face of bullying or coercion” from China and would not stop regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
A rising number of incidents have added to tension between the world's two largest economies.
The naval encounter follows a U.S. accusation that a Chinese fighter jet conducted an "unnecessarily aggressive maneuver" by flying in front of the nose of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea last month.
The string of incidents has prompted Washington to warn that a lack of high-level communication with Beijing risks a flare-up that could "spiral out of control."
Ni Lexiong, a professor of political science at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that by flying and sailing its planes and ships close to their U.S. counterparts, China was reacting to what it sees as escalation of Taiwan.
“The point is that Biden suddenly and urgently supplied Taiwan with half a billion dollars of stuff at no cost. The Stinger missiles arrived, followed by the Javelin missiles,” he said. He said the U.S. was turning the island into an “ammunition depot,” leaving China angry and feeling it has little choice but to respond.
A full-scale conflict, however, remained unlikely, he added.
China has pointed to U.S. sanctions and actions for its reluctance to meet, but a senior U.S. State Department official is visiting Beijing for a week of bilateral talks.
Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs, will raise China's human rights record during the trip, the State Department said in a statement, as well as economic and environmental issues.