Russia laughs off 'challenge' by US warship in Sea of Japan
Russia has laughed off a US warship's "challenge" to its territorial claims in the Sea of Japan as "unsuccessful" while reacting angrily to reports that US ships could also enter the Black Sea.
The US naval activity comes less than two weeks after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea in the Black Sea last month in an escalation of existing tensions.
The guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell "sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia's excessive maritime claims" in a demonstrative "freedom of navigation" operation on Wednesday, the navy said.
But the Russian defence ministry claimed yesterday that the McCampbell had not come closer than 100km to its territorial waters and was currently "demonstrating its bravery" 400km from Russian shores. A destroyer and several warplanes nonetheless followed the US ship, which tried to "get away at maximum speed", the ministry said in a sarcastic statement carried on state television.
Moscow has since Soviet times maintained that the entire Peter the Great Bay, which includes the home base of its Pacific fleet in Vladivostok, is historically Russian territory. Washington argues that Russian waters extend only 12 nautical miles from shore as per international law.
In an unrelated incident, five marines were missing after an American fighter jet collided with a tanker plane during refuelling over the Sea of Japan yesterday.
The navy's freedom of navigation operation marked a geographical broadening of tensions between Russia and the US, which has previously focused on challenging Chinese claims in the South China Sea, most recently sailing naval ships near contested areas there last week.
The two Cold War foes are also at odds over a landmark arms control treaty that US President Donald Trump wants to abandon. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said on Wednesday Russia would develop new missiles if the US withdrew.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that the US was notifying Turkey of "possible plans" to sail a warship into the Black Sea in response to the capture of three Ukrainian ships there on November 25. The ships were headed for Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait, which has been controlled by Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. (© Daily Telegraph, London)