China's Foreign Ministry acknowledged for the first time Tuesday a collision last week between a Chinese submarine and a sonar being towed by a U.S. Navy destroyer.

The incident occurred Thursday, spokesman Qin Gang said, while giving no details.

The U.S. Navy has had little comment on the incident, other than to say that the USS John S. McCain's towed sonar had been damaged. There have been no reports of injuries or damage to either vessel.

While analysts said the collision appeared to be an accident, they have warned of a growing pattern of incidents and confrontations arising from China's growing naval power and willingness to assert territorial claims in waters off its coast.

"What we're seeing are the initial stages of a growing military competition between the United States and China with naval forces rubbing up against each other in a dangerous and largely unregulated posturing for alliances and natural resources in the region," said Hans M. Kristensen, a researcher with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.

The incident reportedly occurred in international waters northwest of the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Beijing considers the area its territorial waters as part of its claim to the entire South China Sea and opposes U.S. military operations and data gathering there.