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US Navy Sailed Johnson and Gaven Reefs in Spratly Islands and The Chinese Navy Response

The Decatur had sailed within 22 kilometers of Johnson and Gaven reefs in the Spratly chain as part of the United States’ FONOP program. The operations are intended to enforce the right of free passage in international waters under international law. Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines also claim the two islets.

The photos, published on the gcaptain website a day earlier, were not released by the U.S. Navy and according to the official. It was not clear how the site gathers the picture.

The series of three photos shows the Chinese warship operating what US has called an unsafe maneuver during an encounter with the USS Decatur in the disputed South China Sea on Sunday. The U.S. military said Tuesday that the Chinese ship came within 40 meters of the US Navy vessel, forcing the ship to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The confrontation happened on Sunday as the Decatur was conducting what the U.S. calls “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs) near two Chinese-held human-made islets in the Spratly Islands.