China has said today it is paying close attention to a US warship that sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the first such voyage since the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters on Thursday that Beijing has been closely monitoring the American vessel with a ‘full control of the situation’.
The US Navy claimed that the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer conducted ‘a routine transit’ through the waterway to demonstrate its commitment to a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’.
US warships periodically conduct navigation exercises in the strait, often triggering angry responses from China which claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory.
Beijing views any ships passing through the strait as essentially a breach of its sovereignty – while the US and many other nations view the route as international waters open to all.
The voyage by the USS John S. McCain ‘demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific’, the Seventh Fleet statement said.
‘The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.’
Taiwan’s defence ministry confirmed the journey without identifying the vessel.
Wang Wenbin from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Thursday press briefing that Beijing has been closely monitoring the US warship’s activities.
‘China is paying close attention and has a full control of the situation of a US warship passing through the Taiwan Strait,’ Wang noted.
He added that US military repeatedly flaunted their force by dispatching warships to the waterway, sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence forces’.
‘China will continue to maintain a high level of alert at all times, respond to all threats and provocations at any time, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ the spokesman said.
‘We urge the United States to play a constructive role for regional peace and stability, not the other way around.’
The transit comes after two US reconnaissance planes and one jet tanker flew near Taiwan’s airspace on Monday, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry, which did not disclose their routes.
In December, China also made a stark warning to the US after two American warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a ‘routine transit’.
‘The move by the US warships has sent a wrong signal to separatist elements advocating ‘Taiwan independence’ and seriously endangered peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,’ Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defence, said at the time.
Last year, the US Navy conducted a total of 13 sailings through the waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.
China has stepped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, as she refuses to acknowledge Beijing’s stance that the island is part of ‘one China’.
In January, Chinese military aircraft were spotted entering Taiwanese airspace on a total of 30 different days, reported Taiwanese media.
Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times warned that Beijing’s alleged intrusions were considered as ‘preparing to fight the possible war through exercises’.
Last year Chinese military jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone, with some analysts warning that tensions between the two sides were at their highest since the mid-1990s.