US, China Have Unsafe Encounters in South China Sea

Pentagon blames Chinese behavior, but US ships keep confronting them

Mounting US tensions with China are mostly playing out diplomatically. The South China Sea is the one area where military confrontation is a risk. Pentagon officials have suggested there were nine such incidents in recent months.

The incidents are common. A US warship or two approaches Chinese claimed territory in the South China Sea, and China responds. The US gets mad at China’s response, saying it is “unsafe” to react to their provocations.

The US doesn’t like the way China reacts, but they won’t just not engage in such provocations. If anything, the Pentagon has a growing number of missions in the South China Sea challenging China and provoking a response.

The Pentagon tends to overstate what was “unsafe” labeling any reaction to their operations as such. A military confrontation, however, cannot be ruled out, and the more encounters happen, the higher that risk becomes.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of