Beijing: China came down heavily on the US decision to sail its first warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait after the high stakes parliamentary and presidential elections held in the self-governed island nation earlier this month, accusing it of causing ‘trouble and provocation’. China’s Defence Ministry said such activities “on China’s doorsteps” are the root cause of US-China problems.
China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own and has pledged to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Despite several military threats and warnings, the people of Taiwan rebuffed China by selecting Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which calls for Taiwan’s independence. Taiwan says only the island’s people can decide their future.
The US Navy said the destroyer USS John Finn transited through a corridor in the Taiwan Strait that separates China from Taiwan, saying that was “beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state”. “US warships and planes have caused trouble and provocation on China’s doorstep, and carried out large-scale, high-frequency activities in waters and airspace around China,” Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian at a briefing.
Wu said China’s response in driving away the ship was “justified, reasonable, professional and restrained”, adding that the Chinese military will “continue to organise relevant military operations” around the Taiwan Strait on a regular basis as part of its training.
“The United States side should stop abusing international law, cease all dangerous and provocative behaviour, and strictly restrain the activities of front-line troops, which is the fundamental way to avoid accidents at sea and in the air,” he added. China agreed to resume military contacts with the US at a meeting last November between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California.
US support to Taiwan
In part, the argument for doing so was to be able to manage an unintentional collision or other incident that could happen as both sides hold drills and patrol the waters in regional hotspots including the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. However, the US defends its actions as in line with international laws that guarantee freedom of navigation.
“No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows,” the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a news release on the John Finn’s transit of the Strait.
The United States is Taiwan’s most important international backer and arms seller despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties. China has repeatedly warned the United States to stop its support for Taiwan and the issue is a constant irritant in China-US relations.
This comes after a delegation of US lawmakers visited Taiwan and told the newly-formed government to ‘rest assured’ that they have firm support from Washington during a meeting on Thursday with President-elect Lai Ching-te and President Tsai Ing-wen. Lai expressed hopes that the United States can continue to firmly support Taiwan.
China’s military activities
Beijing strongly condemned Lai Ching-te’s election and appears set to continue its policy of refusing to engage with the island’s government – a practice that’s been in place since Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016. China’s campaign of intimidation against Taiwan includes the regular deployment of Chinese warships and planes in waters and airspace around the island, often crossing the middle line of the 160-kilometre-wide Taiwan Strait that divides them. The two split following the seizure of power by Mao Zedong’s Communists on the Chinese mainland.
Between Sunday and early Monday morning, four Chinese warplanes and four navy ships, as well as six surveillance balloons, were detected around Taiwan, the Defence Ministry said. Taiwan’s military monitored the situation with combat aircraft, navy vessels and land-based missile systems, the ministry said.
(with inputs from agencies)