Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday that it caught the U.S. Navy destroyer USS John McCain in contested waters in the Sea of Japan and chased the vessel off.
The vessel was performing what the Navy described as a freedom of navigation operation, or FONOP, Tuesday in the vicinity of Peter the Great Gulf, which Russia claims as Russian territorial waters, but that the United States considers international waters.
The Russian news agency Tass reported that the McCain passed the maritime border into Russian territory by 1.2 miles, prompting the Admiral Vinogradov anti-submarine destroyer to issue a warning.
"The Pacific Fleet's Admiral Vinogradov anti-submarine destroyer used an international communication channel to warn the foreign vessel that such actions were unacceptable and the violator could be forced out of the country's territorial waters in a ramming maneuver," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
"After the warning was issued and the Admiral Vinogradov changed its course, the USS John S. McCain destroyer returned to international waters," the ministry said.
According to a Navy press release recounting the same incident, in 1984 the then-Soviet Union declared a system of straight baselines along its coasts that included a baseline enclosing Peter the Great Gulf as internal waters.
Russia has continued that claim, but the United States contends that it includes more water than the country is entitled to claim under international law.
The FONOP was intended to demonstrate 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 Russian Federation's statement about this mission is false," the Navy said. "USS John S. McCain was not 'expelled' from any nation's territory. McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters."
"The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle, and the United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation," the Navy said.