U.S. warship sails near Taiwan, provoking furious response from Chinese media

Chinese analysts warn of ‘unwanted conflict’ if U.S. vessels continue to transit disputed waters.
By RFA Staff
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U.S. warship sails near Taiwan, provoking furious response from Chinese media Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) conducting a Taiwan Strait transit on July 19, 2022
U.S. 7th Fleet

A U.S. warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, only three days after two consecutive Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea that drew strong protests from China.

The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on July 19 [local time],” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

The transit was conducted “through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” and was “in accordance with international law,” it added.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed the transit, saying the Benfold “sailed from south to north through the Taiwan Strait” and described the situation as “normal.”

Last Saturday, the Benfold sailed near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in the second FONOP within a week. The first one was near another disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, the Paracels, on July 13.

The two back-to-back FONOPs provoked a strong reaction from Beijing which called such activities “illegal trespasses” into Chinese waters, an allegation the U.S. rejected.

The ship’s transit “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” the U.S. Navy said, repeating previous statements.

The guided missile destroyer USS Benfold, homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, has made six FONOPs in the South China Sea since last July, an extensive schedule seen by observers as a message of defiance to China’s sweeping maritime claims.

Taiwan visits ‘must stop’ 

Chinese state media called the recent U.S. naval activities “an escalated provocation” and Chinese analysts warned of “an unwanted conflict.”

China is amongst six claimants to the South China Sea but holds the most expansive one and has been developing artificial islands to defend its claims despite international criticism.

Beijing has also been lashing out at news about visits to Taiwan by U.S. politicians.

Britain’s Financial Times newspaper reported that U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is to make a trip to Taipei in August after failing to visit the island in April because she had COVID.

If Pelosi makes the trip it would be the first time since 1997 that a U.S. House Speaker visited the island, which is democratically ruled but claimed by China as its own territory.

However, there are divisions in the Biden administration over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan, according to two sources quoted by the Financial Times.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that China firmly opposes “any form of official interaction between the U.S. and the Taiwan region.”

“If Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan, it would seriously violate the One-China principle and the stipulations in the three China-US joint communiqués and harm China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.

The spokesman warned that such a visit would have a “severe negative impact” on U.S.-China relations and said “China will take strong and resolute measures” against it.

“The U.S. must not arrange for Speaker Pelosi to visit the Taiwan region and must stop official interactions with Taiwan,” Zhao said.

Former U.S. secretary of defense Mark Esper is in Taiwan until Thursday on a three-day visit “to exchange views on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region and Taiwan’s overall relations with the U.S. and Europe,” according to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry.


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