Chinese newspaper says US cruiser was harassing China fleet before near collision

A Chinese newspaper says a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser had been harassing a Chinese fleet before it nearly collided with a Chinese warship early this month.

The Global Times on Monday rejected U.S. military officials' comments that a Chinese warship nearly collided with the USS Cowpens when the U.S. ship was in international waters Dec. 5.

The Global Times cites an unnamed source who's familiar with the incident as saying that the USS Cowpens had entered within 45 kilometers (30 miles) of the Chinese fleet's "inner defense layer."

The paper cites the source as saying the U.S. ship tailed after and harassed the Chinese fleet.

China's Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed query.

The incident comes amid heightened tension over China's growing assertiveness in the region.