Navy Denies Claim Russians Drove Out U.S. Destroyer From Sea of Japan

November 24, 2020 1:15 PM
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) transits through Peter the Great Bay while conducting routine underway operations on Nov. 24, 2020. U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy on Tuesday refuted Russia’s claim that it found and drove an American warship out of the Sea of Japan.

Destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) performed a freedom of navigation operation in the waters near Peter the Great Bay, a gulf off the Pacific coast of Russia in the Sea of Japan, U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Moscow’s Ministry of Defense said that during the operation Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov drove McCain out of the bay after telling the American destroyer it could ram the ship if McCain did not leave the area, according to a report in Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

“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. After the [warning] was issued and the Admiral Vinogradov changed its course, the USS John S. McCain destroyer returned to international waters,” reads a statement from the ministry, as reported by TASS.

The Russian Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD-572) seen on July 17, 2016 off USS America. USNI News Photo

The Navy pushed back against the Russian claim on Tuesday.

“The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false. USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory. McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters,” the statement reads.
“The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle, and the United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation.”

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer sailed near waters the Soviet Union staked a claim to in 1984, 7th Fleet said.

“This 106-nautical mile (nm) closing line is inconsistent with the rules of international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention to enclose the waters of a bay. 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 said. “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 same Russian destroyer was involved in a June 2019 incident with guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) in the Western Pacific, USNI News previously reported.

“While Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of ~50-100 feet. This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement at the time.

TASS reported that Moscow claimed Chancellorsville sailed in front of the Russian Udaloy-class destroyer during the incident.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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