U.S. Navy chief says U.S, China to 'meet more and more on high seas'

Admiral John Richardson, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, waits for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 18 December 2017. REUTERS/Franck Robichon/Pool

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said on Tuesday the United States and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas” after a Chinese warship came close to a U.S. ship in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese vessel came within 45 yards (meters) of the USS Decatur during a “freedom of navigation” sail in late September, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said this month.

The U.S. mission was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China’s relationship with the Russian navy should be watched “with interest” as it grows, said Richardson, speaking at an event co-organized by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Nick Macfie