The guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the Sea of Japan — and Russia asserts the operation led to a tussle with a Russian destroyer.

According to the U.S. Navy, the McCain entered the Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan Tuesday as part of the FONOP and the service claimed the destroyer adhered to international law while challenging “Russia’s excessive maritime claims.”

In response, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its destroyer Admiral Vinogradov issued a verbal warning to the McCain and accused the U.S. destroyer of trespassing 2 kilometers into its internal waters, Russian state-run outlet TASS reports. Russia also warned it would employ a “ramming maneuver” to drive the McCain out of the region, per TASS.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the McCain then exited its territory and resumed sailing in international waters.

But the 7th Fleet challenged Russia’s assertions and cited how the USSR established a 106-nautical mile line to claim the Peter the Great Bay as internal waters in 1984. Russia has continued to claim the waters are theirs, which is “inconsistent with the rules of international law,” the 7th Fleet said.

“The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false. USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement. “McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters.”

“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 7th Fleet said.

The McCain just recently resumed operations following a fatal collision with a tanker in the western Pacific in August 2017. The incident resulted in the deaths of 10 of its crew members.

After being sidelined for several years as it was undergoing massive repairs, the McCain started conducting operations again in June 2020 for the 7th Fleet.

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