China on Wednesday called Washington a “destroyer of peace” in the Taiwan Strait, following the latest in a series of passages by US warships through the waterway.
Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory one day again – and the narrow body of water that separates the island and mainland China is a flashpoint between the two sides.
In contrast to Beijing’s position, the United States and other countries view the strait as part of international waters and thus open to all, and this year a US warship has crossed the route almost every month.
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On Tuesday, the Earl Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit … through international waters,” the US Seventh Fleet said in a statement.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the strait beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” it added.
China’s Eastern Theater Command said on Wednesday that it has deployed the Navy and Air Force to “follow and monitor the entire process”.
Its spokesman, Col. Xi Yi, said, “The frequent American provocations and demonstrations fully demonstrate that the United States is a threat and destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
He added that the Chinese military was “always on high alert to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had closely monitored the path of the destroyer and that “the situation was normal.”
In June, Taipei struggled with Beijing to restore its position that the strait was not international waters, accusing China of trying to jeopardize regional peace with its territorial claims.
British, Canadian, French and Australian warships have made their way through the Taiwan Strait in recent years, sparked by protests in Beijing.
The en route of the USS Benfold coincided with a visit to Taiwan on Tuesday by former US Defense Chief Mark Esper, who called Taiwan “a good friend we should support and defend” during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen.
Esper said it was time for Washington to “move away from strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily on behalf of Taiwan.
“Strategic ambiguity” has been a long-standing policy of the United States on Taiwan, designed to deter Chinese invasion and discourage the island region from ever formally declaring independence.
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