Taiwan Strait: China voices ‘grave’ US threat

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption US ships have routinely sailed through the strait, which is a strait but is not officially recognized by any nation

China has accused the US Navy of hyping up the situation and warned it not to make matters worse.

A US Navy warship passed through the Taiwan Strait on Monday, following similar manoeuvres in March by US warships.

The US State Department said the passage through the strait complied with international law and was routine.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns that the US may be trying to hinder China’s legitimate security interests.

“By doing so, the United States flagrantly infringed on China’s sovereignty and security interests,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Taiwan has run a de facto independent state since fleeing from the Chinese mainland in 1949 and China views the island as part of its territory, to be brought back into the fold eventually.

US vessels frequently transit the strait but have never visited the island, which only has semi-autonomous rule over its own territory.

“Even if the island of Taiwan is independent, no country has the right to attack, invade or invade or infringe on any other country’s defence or peace and security interests,” Ms Hua added.

The Straits

The Strait is one of the most important waterway connecting the South China Sea to the rest of the world.

The US Navy has sailed through the waterway multiple times in recent years without incident, but has previously angered China by sending warships close to islands claimed by Beijing.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wants to maintain ties with China but has never formally acknowledged their sovereignty

The US says its goal is to ensure freedom of navigation, but China has recently upped the rhetoric against the U.S. Navy in its pursuit of freedom of navigation.

The US navy routinely conducts Freedom of Navigation Operations in waters over which it has jurisdiction and it describes as a key part of its maritime security efforts.

But China has often warned them off by sending warships through the strait.

Last month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not allow China to dominate the Western Pacific region.

Ms Tsai reiterated her position that she wants to keep ties with China but not formally acknowledge China’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

‘Incredible territory’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The United States bought equipment to conduct spy flights over Asia in a show of support for Taiwan

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive political issues and last year President Xi Jinping praised the island’s “incredible territory”.

But there have been no major confrontations and relations are generally cordial.

China has accused the US of creating tensions by sending warships through the strait.

Earlier this month the US – which has a major naval base in Taiwan’s southernmost island of Tinian – sent its first warship to the South China Sea, which is also claimed by Beijing.

It passed past disputed islands in the area which China has laid claim to.

Washington also announced $2.4bn (£1.9bn) in defence aid for Taiwan and plans to open a new marines base there in 2020.

Taiwan is home to a large US defence contractor and technology firm, which has estimated that US assistance accounts for 30% of its annual GDP.

“Doing what they did isn’t a risk [to Taiwan],” said Jeremy C Richardson, a senior fellow at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“We all know about the many, many times they’ve crossed that line.”

“Of course they worry about it, but the US moves around the strait for humanitarian and surveillance reasons,” he added.

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