Maritime experts were given a rare glimpse of the underlying capabilities of the Chinese navy on Sunday, when crewmen involved in a stand-off with a US surveillance ship in the South China Sea revealed the fleet's previously hidden firepower.
The exposure came as the American vessel USNS Impeccable was attempting to defend itself against what the Pentagon claimed was co-ordinated harassment and aggression from five Chinese ships. Being unarmed, the Impeccable turned its fire water hoses against two of the Chinese vessels that had come within 50 feet in a threatening posture.
Then, the Pentagon records in the admirably restrained language of international diplomacy, "the Chinese crew members disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet."
In the annals of great naval battles, the contretemps may not rank alongside Trafalgar or Jutland. But it must be a contender for this year's award for naked aggression.
The Chinese Foreign ministry has remained silent on the incident, which in the circumstances is probably sensible.