Date: 30 November 2020

U.S.-Russia Navy Incident in the North Pacific

Moscow accused the United States of violating its border after the USS John McCain had sailed into what Russia believed to be its territorial waters. The United States does not hide that the incident was a deliberate move to show that the gulf belongs to international waters. This marked the latest navy incident in the North Pacific in the vicinity of both countries. In late August, a Russian submarine surfaced near the Alaskan shore.


First, on November 24, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement that the guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain ventured 2 kilometers into Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Japan. The U.S. vessel received an immediate warning from the Admiral Vinogradov vessel. The Pacific Fleet destroyer even threatened to ram the intruder. The American destroyer withdrew from the area but Russia anyway dispatched its Sovershennyy corvette to the spot. The U.S. 7th Fleet responded to the Russian allegations in a statement saying “the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, based at Yokosuka, asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of Peter the Great Gulf with a freedom of navigation operation aimed at challenging Russia’s excessive maritime claims.” By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia’s territorial sea and that the United States does not accept Russia’s claim that Peter the Great Gulf is a “historic bay” under international law. The latest mission was the first U.S. operation in the Peter the Great Gulf since December 2018. The U.S.-Russia spat has been on since 1984 when the Soviet Union declared the area as part of its territorial waters. Located nearby, Vladivostok is the home port for the Russian Pacific Fleet. In late August, the U.S. Navy Command said it had detected a Russian submarine off the Alaskan shore. The vessel surfaced in international waters. The Russian Navy was unavailable for comment, but at that time the Bering Sea hosted navy drills involving the Varyag missile cruiser and the Omsk nuclear submarine.

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