On Monday, a U.S. and Chinese naval ships squared off in the South China Sea.
According to numerous news articles, and seemingly confirmed by the U.S. Navy, the Yancheng, a PLA Navy Type 054A guided-missile frigate closely tracked the USS Fort Worth, a U.S. Navy Freedom-class littoral combat ship, as the latter patrolled the South China Sea near disputed Spratly Islands.
A photo released by the U.S. Navy showed the USS Fort Worth patrolling the area with the Yancheng trailing it in the distance. Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, the commander of America’s 7th Fleet— whose area of operations includes the South China Sea— sought to downplay the significance of the event. “It’s routine for U.S. 7th fleet ships to operate in the South China Sea and also routine for [Chinese] PLAN ships to operate at visual range of us,” Thomas said, Stars and Stripes reported. “Not a day goes by that the U.S. 7th Fleet and the PLAN are not talking to each other.”