US Sends Destroyer in CHina Sea
A picture released by the US shows what it claimed were Chinese vessels harassing the US surveillance ships
"Right now they are going to escort these types of ships for the foreseeable future," a US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Thursday.
The escorts by warships applied to operations in the South China Sea, the official said.
The armed destroyers will escort US surveillance ships operating in the sea following a tense naval standoff this week, sources said.
Earlier, Pentagon said that five Chinese ships harassed and maneuvered dangerously close to the unarmed USNS Impeccable as the ocean surveillance vessel was in waters some 75 miles south of the Chinese island of Hainan.
China has a key submarine base on Hainan island, 75 miles north of where Sunday's incident occurred.
The US claimed the incident took place in international waters after several days of increasingly aggressive acts by Chinese ships in the region.
However, Chinese sources said that the concerned US navy vessel had been consistently conducting illegal surveying in China's special economic zone.
The arrival of the destroyer underscores the Pentagon's determination to continue with the surveillance mission in spite of Beijing's claims that it represents an illegal military activity.
It also signaled heightened US-China tensions on a day when President Barack Obama met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the White House.
Obama stressed "the importance of raising the level and frequency of the US-China military-to-military dialogue in order to avoid future incidents," according to a White House statement on Thursday.
The US and China have remained at odds over a number of issues ranging from Tibet, human rights, space and nuclear technology.