A U.S. Navy destroyer took on Russian forces on Tuesday in a direct challenge to Moscow's territorial claims in the Pacific.
Dispatched from a Navy base in Japan, the USS John McCain set out for Peter the Great Bay in the Western Pacific to combat Russia's "excessive maritime claims," according to a statement from the Navy.
As it conducted the freedom of navigation exercise, a Russian warship confronted the McCain and threatened to ram the American ship if it refused to change course. Moscow maintains that after this warning, the McCain pivoted back toward international waters. The Navy, however, says the destroyer did not leave the territory and continued its operation.
"This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law," the Navy said in a statement. "The United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation."
Peter the Great Bay sits off of Russia's eastern coastline and neighbors North Korea. In 1984, the Soviet Union claimed the bay as its territory, a claim that Russia maintains to this day. The United States has never recognized the area as belonging to Moscow, saying it is inconsistent with international law and threatens freedom of navigation.
The dustup between Washington and Moscow comes only days after the Trump administration officially withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty, citing Russia's abuse of the agreement to hinder American intelligence gathering.