Analysts say US military’s warnings of rising threat reflect deterioration in US-China ties rather than any real change.
China has accused the United States of threatening the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait after a US warship again sailed through the seas that separate Taiwan and its giant neighbour.
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Tuesday in accordance with international law.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said in a statement on its website. “The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”
A spokesman for China’s Eastern Theatre Command expressed strong opposition to the passage on Wednesday, which comes amid heightened tensions between the two powers.
“The US actions sends the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, deliberately disrupting the regional situation and endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Chinese forces tracked and monitored the ship throughout its voyage, he added.
China believes Taiwan’s democratically elected government is bent on a formal declaration of independence for the island, a red line for Beijing.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says they are already an independent state called the Republic of China, the island’s formal name.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the destroyer had sailed in a southerly direction through the strait and the “situation was as normal”.
The US Navy has been conducting such operations every month or so. The 7th Fleet is based in Japan.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its most important international backer and a substantial seller of arms.
Military tension between Taiwan and Beijing has spiked over the past year, with Taipei complaining of China repeatedly sending its air force into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
Some of those activities can involve multiple fighters and bombers.
China has said its activities around Taiwan are aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty. Taiwan’s government has condemned China’s manoeuvres as intimidation.