A U.S. guided missile cruiser operating in the South China Sea was forced to take drastic measures to avoid a nearby Chinese warship, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement on Friday. In light of Beijing's declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone farther north in the East China Sea, -- which was rejected by the U.S. -- tensions in the sea were already high. USS Cowpens was operating nearby China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. The Cowpens had been in the Philippines helping with disaster relief in the aftermath of the massive typhoon that hit the region in November. The U.S. Navy said it was conducting regular freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea when the incident occurred. China deployed the Liaoning to the South China Sea for maneuvers in the midst of the tensions over the air zone, where Japan and U.S. rejected China's demand to possess flight information of all aircraft.