The U.S. Navy has rejected a claim by Moscow that a U.S. warship tried to enter Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Japan during Russian-Chinese naval drills on October 15.
The U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet headquarters says the Russian Defense Ministry's claim "about the interaction between our two Navy ships is false."
It said in a statement that a U.S. destroyer, the USS Chafee, was "conducting routine operations in international water in the Sea of Japan" on October 15 when a Russian Udaloy-class destroyer came within about 60 meters of it.
The U.S. statement described the movements of the USS Chafee as "safe and professional," saying the ship was conducting operations "in accordance with international law and custom" at all times.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on October 15 that the Russian vessel Admiral Tributs approached the USS Chafee after it ignored warnings to leave an area that had been declared off-limits due to exercises with artillery fire.
After “making an attempt to cross the Russian sea border,” the U.S. destroyer changed course and sped out of the area at a moment when the two vessels were just 60 meters away from each other, the Russian ministry said.
The ministry said Russia and China were practicing how to operate together and destroy floating sea mines with artillery fire.
Moscow also said it had summoned the U.S. military attache on October 15 to protest what it called the “unprofessional actions” of the U.S. warship's crew.
"The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate where international law allows," the U.S. Navy said.
The Russian claim comes as Moscow’s relations with the United States and its Western allies are at post-Cold War lows -- strained by issues including Russia's forcible annexation of Crimea, its role in the conflict in Ukraine, interference in Western elections, and cyberattacks allegedly carried out by Russian hackers.
There has been a series of potentially dangerous close encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes and navy ships in recent years, with NATO accusing Moscow of aggressive maneuvers in the air and at sea.
The October 15 incident was the second time in four months that Moscow said it had chased a NATO warship from what it claims were Russian waters.
In June, Russia said it had chased away a British destroyer sailing in waters off Ukraine's Crimea region in the Black Sea, claiming the vessel had breached Russian territorial waters.
Britain rejected Moscow's account of that incident, saying its ship was operating lawfully in Ukrainian waters.
Like most of the world, Britain recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine. Crimea has been illegally occupied by Russia since Russian military forces seized the peninsula in 2014 and Moscow staged an independence referendum widely condemned as bogus.