The USS John McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, conducted what the US calls a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) near Russia’s coast in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, the McCain violated Russia’s territorial borders by entering two kilometers into the Peter the Great Gulf, near the Russian city of Vladivostok.
The ministry said a Russian anti-submarine destroyer sent a warning to the US ship and threatened to “use a ramming maneuver to drive the intruder out of its territorial waters.” After the warning was made, the McCain left the waters, according to the Russian account.
The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet released a statement on the provocative maneuver and denied the Russian account. “The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false. USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory,” the statement said. “McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters.”
Russia has claimed Peter the Great Gulf since 1984, but the US does not recognize the claim. The Seventh Fleet said they were challenging Russia’s “excessive maritime claims.”
The US regularly conducts FONOPs in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s claims to the waters. The US recently started running FONOPs off the northeast coast of South America to challenge Venezuela’s claims.