The U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and a Chinese nuclear submarine squared off this fall in an encounter that demonstrated the growing potential for naval conflict between the United States and China, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.

Shortly after the incident, which occurred in the Yellow Sea in international waters off China from Oct. 27 to 29, China served notice that the next time such a situation arises, its orders will be to shoot to kill, the newspaper said, citing unnamed Pentagon officials.No shots were fired, but U.S. officials were reported to have acknowledged that was a serious confrontation.

The captain of the Kitty Hawk dispatched anti-submarine-warfare aircraft to drop sonic devices designed to track the sub, and Chinese jet fighters scrambled and flew within sight of the U.S. planes, the Times reported.

The carrier left the area only after the submarine withdrew to its base at the port of Qingdao, the newspaper said.

The Kitty Hawk, whose home port is San Diego, had been used to project U.S. power in the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Somalia before it was transferred in July, at the height of the Korean crisis, to a U.S. base in Japan.

The encounter undersocred the growing maritime tensions between the U.S. Pacific Fleet and China's growing blue-water navy, the Times said.

U.S. officials were cited as saying the Kitty Hawk found the nuclear sub in open waters where they have rarely spotted Chinese vessels before. Another U.S. Navy ship encountered a Chinese sub in September, but that incident ended much more quietly.

The latest episode highlights some of the gunboat diplomacy involving the United States, China and North Korea that surrounded the U.S.-North Korean nuclear agreement reached Oct. 17.

To the apparent consternation of Clinton administration officials, the Yellow Sea incident took place less than two weeks after Secretary of Defense William Perry traveled to Beijing to try to improve military cooperation between the United States and China, the Times said.

The nuclear sub that faced off with the Kitty Hawk is one of five operated by China's navy.