Wednesday 21 August 2019

China voices 'concern' as US warship sails through strait to support independent Taiwan

On patrol: The guided missile cruiser USS Antietam is shown in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
On patrol: The guided missile cruiser USS Antietam is shown in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

Idrees Ali

China has expressed "deep concerns" over a US navy warship sailing through the Taiwan Strait, a day after Beijing warned it was ready for war if Taiwan moved toward independence.

Taiwan is among a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include a trade war, American sanctions and China's increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said China had "expressed deep concerns to the US side" over its latest action in the strait separating China from Taiwan.

"The Taiwan question is the most sensitive and important issue between China and the US," Hua Chunying said.

"We urge the US to abide by the One China principle and the three joint communiqués, to be prudent and act appropriately with regards to Taiwan so that it doesn't harm China-US relations and the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait's region."

China claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing's control.

Beijing has warned that it is ready for war if there was any move toward Taiwan's independence, accusing the United States of undermining global stability and denouncing its arms sales to the self-ruled island.

The warship sent to the 180km-wide strait was identified as the USS Antietam.

"The [ship's] transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific," Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, said. "The US navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows."

The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from US President Donald Trump's administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.

Taiwan's defence ministry said the US ship had sailed north through the Taiwan Strait in its freedom-of-navigation voyage and Taiwan had monitored the mission.

"Taiwan makes no compromise on its freedom, democracy and sovereignty," President Tsai Ing-wen said in Taipei. "The responsibility for cross-strait and regional stability lies with every party.

"China has the responsibility, and we will undertake ours, too," Mr Tsai said.

Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it considers a wayward province of "one China" and sacred Chinese territory.

It has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

Irish Independent

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