US Navy warship sails through Taiwan Strait as China warns it ‘makes no promise’ not to use force to defend its interests

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marcus L. Stanley/U.S. Navy via AP, File
  • A US Navy cruiser sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, a day after China issued a defence report warning that it is prepared to use force to defend its interests in the area.
  • Beijing on Wednesday released a defence white paper, its first in four years, which explained that China makes “no promise to renounce the use of force.”
  • The defence report said the warning was directed not at Taiwan but at the “external forces,” a reference to the US, interfering in the situation, as well as “Taiwan independence” separatists.
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A US Navy warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, only one day after China warned it was prepared to use force to defend its interests.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam’s “transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a 7th Fleet spokesman told Reuters, adding that the “US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

This language has been used repeatedly for past Taiwan Strait transits, as well as the freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber overflights in the South China Sea – regular US military activities that anger Beijing.

The latest Taiwan Strait transit, one of eight in the past year, comes on the heels of the release of China’s defence white paper, a document highly critical of US activities in the Asia-Pacific region.

“China must be and will be reunited,” the report said, reiterating China’s position on Taiwan, seen in Beijing as a renegade province where separatist forces are emboldened by external support.

“China has the firm resolve and the ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the white paper reads. “We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”

The Chinese report, titled “China’s National Defence in the New Era,” warned that “the [People’s Liberation Army] will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs.”

The paper, restating points made previously, accused the US of undermining global strategic stability and expressed China’s strong opposition to arms sales to Taiwan, as well as “illegal entry” by US military assets “into China’s territorial waters and maritime and air spaces near relevant islands and reefs, and wide-range and frequent close-in reconnaissance.”

Earlier this month, the US approved a $US2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan that would deliver tanks and missiles to bolster the island’s defences.

“We urge the US to fully recognise the gravity of the Taiwan question,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, warning the US “not to play with fire on the question of Taiwan.”

“If the US side wants to create new troubles in US-China relations, ultimately their actions will backfire,” he said.

Read more:
China warns the US not to ‘play with fire’ over a $US2.2 billion sale of tanks and missiles to Taiwan

Responding to Thursday’s transit of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “The Taiwan question is the most sensitive and important issue between China and the US.”

She said China urges the US “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.”