US rankles China with latest Taiwan ‘provocation’
US-China tensions over Taiwan have escalated yet again, with Beijing accusing Washington of purposely undermining stability in the region by sailing a warship through the strait between the self-governing island and the Chinese mainland.
The USS Chung-Hoon, a guided-missile destroyer, transited through international waters of the Taiwan Strait on Thursday in what the US Navy called a “freedom-of-navigation” exercise. The incident marked Washington’s first such passage through the 100-mile-wide strait this year and came just two weeks after US and Chinese warplanes passed within 3 meters of each other over the South China Sea.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, called on the US to “immediately stop provoking troubles, escalating tensions and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” He added, “China will continue to stay on high alert and is ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time, and will resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) went on high alert as it monitored the US ship’s passage through the Taiwan Strait. The US Navy has vowed to continue transits through the strait to demonstrate its commitment to “a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kristina Wiedemann told USNI News that Thursday’s transit was done in accordance with international law.
The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The Chinese embassy spokesman said such demonstrations only heighten tensions between the countries. “US warships frequently flex muscles in the name of exercising freedom of navigation. This is not about keeping the region free and open.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen reportedly visited a military base on Friday in central Chiayi county to observe drills amid the latest row. She told reporters that the PLA’s “continuous activities” around Taiwan are “not helpful to cross-strait relations nor to the peace and stability of the region.”
US-China relations deteriorated last summer, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied warnings from Beijing by visiting Taiwan. Chinese officials had claimed that her trip would undermine Beijing’s sovereignty over the island and embolden separatists. China reacted by ramping up military drills in the region and severing defense and climate ties with the US.