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US warship transit of Taiwan Strait misleads independence forces, says Beijing

·4 min read

China’s military said it had warned a US warship that had sailed through the Taiwan Strait and accused Washington of provoking tensions in the latest confrontation between the two nations over the self-ruled island.

The US Navy 7th fleet said the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday through international waters “in accordance with international law”.

“The ship transited through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. Port Royal’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said in a statement.

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“The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command hit back, saying it was a move to provoke tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

“The United States frequently stages such dramas and provokes trouble, sending the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces and deliberately intensifying tensions across the Taiwan Strait,” theatre command spokesman Shi Yi said in a statement.

“Theatre troops maintain high alert at all times, resolutely counteract all threats and provocations and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be brought under its control, by force if necessary, and it opposes formal relations between the self-ruled island and other nations.

The latest stand-off follows another spat on Tuesday, when Beijing said Washington was hollowing out the one-China principle by changing how it described its relations with Taiwan.

In an updated fact sheet on its website, the State Department has removed a portion of the first paragraph stating that in the Joint Communique signed with Beijing in 1979 “the US recognised the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China”.

It also deleted a statement from the second paragraph of the 2018 fact sheet that had declared its long-time position that the US “does not support Taiwan independence”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the update was a “petty trick to hollow out the one-China principle” and “political manipulation to try to change the cross-strait status quo” would never succeed.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that while some wording might have changed, “our underlying policy has not changed”.

“We regularly do updates on our fact sheets. Our fact sheets reflect, in the case of Taiwan, our rock-solid unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and we call upon the PRC to behave responsibly and to not manufacture pretences to increase pressure on Taiwan,” Price said in a press briefing, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Mainland China has stepped up military exercises against Taiwan – saying they were a warning to the pro-independence camp.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the US ship sailed north through the strait, and that the situation in the waterway was “as normal”.

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Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that a single Chinese WZ-10 attack helicopter had briefly crossed the strait’s unofficial median line.

It also reported that two Chinese KA-28 anti-submarine helicopters were spotted in an area roughly halfway between Taiwan’s southwestern coast and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the top part of the South China Sea.

The People’s Liberation Army carried out another round of exercises near Taiwan last week to improve joint combat operations.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson sailed through the Taiwan Strait on April 27, which China condemned, saying such missions “deliberately” harmed peace and stability.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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