China criticizes the passage of a US ship through the Taiwan Strait before the change of government in Taipei

China criticizes the passage of a US ship through the Taiwan Strait before the change of government in Taipei
China criticizes the passage of a US ship through the Taiwan Strait before the change of government in Taipei

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The Chinese military on Thursday criticized the passage of a U.S. destroyer through the Taiwan Strait, less than two weeks before the island’s new president takes office and as Washington and Beijing made disparate efforts to restore regular military contacts.

Navy Captain Li Xi, spokesman for the Chinese Eastern Command, accused Washington of having “publicized” the passage of the USS Halsey on Wednesday. In a statement, Li said the command, which oversees operations in the strait, “organized naval and air forces” to monitor the ship’s passage.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet, for its part, said the Halsey “made a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait on March 8 through waters where freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas applies in accordance with international law”.

The guided-missile destroyer passed through a strait corridor that is “beyond the territorial waters” of any coastal state, the fleet said in a statement.

“The Halsey’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to supporting freedom of navigation for all nations on principle,” he added. “No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”

China’s accusation that the trip was “publicized,” meaning that it was organized for maximum political effect, is a common claim by Beijing when it considers that the advertisements are intended to challenge China’s claims that it has any kind of authority to control who can cross the strait.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it was well informed of the destroyer’s route.

The last time a similar journey occurred was on April 17, the day before US and Chinese defense officials held their first conversation since November 2022 in an attempt to reduce regional tensions. Direct contact between military commanders stalled in August 2022, when Beijing suspended these communications following a visit to Taiwan by the then speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. China responded by launching missiles at Taiwan and increasing its military maneuvers, including what appeared to be a mock air and naval blockade of the island.

The crucial strait is 160 kilometers (100 miles) wide and separates China from Taiwan, a democratic, self-governed island where President-elect William Lai Ching-te will take office on May 20. The new president’s Democratic Progressive Party supports the de facto independent situation, in which it maintains solid but unofficial ties with the United States and other powers.

The Taiwanese military raises its alert level on important dates such as last January’s elections, given the possibility that China could use its considerably more powerful army to try to intimidate voters and influence public opinion in favor of Beijing’s insistence. that the unification of the two territories is inevitable.

The two separated during a civil war in 1949. In 1996, China launched missiles just north and south of the island and held military exercises in an attempt — which backfired — to discourage voters from supporting anti-Beijing candidates. . Since then, China has acted more discreetly around the elections and instead of military action has chosen to seek the support of business groups and entertain politicians who support unification.

Although the busy Taiwan Strait is considered international waters and is crucial for global trade, China considers the passage of military ships from the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations as a challenge to its sovereignty.

China sends military ships and planes into the strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwanese defenses and intimidate its 23 million people, who strongly support its de facto independence.

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