Naval chiefs from nations participating in the Western Pacific naval symposium (WPNS) in China have agreed a code of conduct for unintentional encounters between navy ships and aircraft.
Dubbed the Code of Unplanned Encounters on the Sea (CUES), the pact follows a two-year period of territorial tensions and air and sea conflicts in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
CUES is intended to ensure miscommunication between vessels does not lead to conflicts.
A US Pacific Fleet official was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that CUES gives navies an additional means of communicating their intentions to other ships to prevent things from going wrong.
"It is expected that nations will use CUES to communicate more than they have in the past," the official said.
"Having said that if you’re intent on causing trouble, you’re going to cause trouble, no matter what."
Under the terms of the agreement, participating navies have been offered a list of English-language terms and are mandated to shoot off flares in green, yellow and red in diverse situations.
Citing the draft, Reuters noted: "The document is not legally binding, rather, it’s a coordinated means of communication to maximise safety at sea."
Another part of the agreement advises naval commanders to avoid actions such as shining lights on a ship’s bridge or an aircraft’s cockpit, or simulating attacks by aiming guns, missiles or fire-control radar at another country’s vessel.
Warships from several nations including the US, China, Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia are participating in the WPNS.
In a bid to mark the 65th founding anniversary of the Chinese Navy, China is also hosting a multinational naval exercise involving fleets from Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore.