By Barbara Starr
A confrontation between the U.S. and Chinese navies led to a tense moment in the South China Sea, CNN has learned.
The incident last Friday, which was resolved peacefully, was the latest sign of Chinese military aggression in international waters and airspace.
A U.S. Navy warship was forced to come to a sudden stop when a Chinese military ship crossed dangerously close in what sources described as a deliberate maneuver.
No weapons were fired and the incident was resolved.
A senior U.S. Navy official described it as a highly unusual encounter because the Chinese ship came so close to the American vessel, the USS Cowpens, a guided missile cruiser.
Several U.S. military officials confirmed details of the incident, which has just come to light.
The Cowpens was in international waters when one ship from a group of Chinese Navy vessels headed toward it. The Chinese ship failed to stop, even after being warned by radio from the Cowpens that it was getting too close.
According to the Navy official, the Cowpens commanding officer issued orders for an "all stop" when the Chinese ship was less than 500 yards off its bow.
"It is unusual to have to take evasive action at sea to avoid a collision," the official said.
While naval vessels often come close as they are observing each other, the United States sees this incident as one that could have led to a collision because of the time and distance it takes for an American warship to stop.