China says it will respond to 'all threats' as US Navy destroyer USS John Finn sails through Taiwan Strait
The missile destroyer USS John Finn has sailed through the Taiwan Strait, triggering Beijing’s ire.
This is the third sailing of a US Navy destroyer through the highly-contentious area since Biden took office.
China has responded to the destroyer’s presence, vowing a swift response to all threats.
A US Navy destroyer has sailed through the Taiwan Strait in what it calls a “routine” exercise – a move that has once again triggered Beijing’s ire.
According to a statement from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn was conducting a routine transit per international law.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows,” the statement said.
The Chinese government has issued a strong response to the destroyer’s passage through the strait, Sina News reported.
“This move by the US Navy has artificially created risk factors across the Taiwan Strait and deliberately undermined regional peace and stability. We firmly oppose this,” the government’s statement read. “Our troops in the theater are always on high alert and are ready to respond to all threats and provocations.”
The strait is a 180-km wide body of water that separates Taiwan and continental Asia. It’s a widely contested area as it links the South China Sea to the East China Sea in the north.
The US and its allies view it as international waters, and US warships are known to regularly conduct exercises in the strait, many of which trigger Beijing’s ire.
This is the third time a US warship has traveled through the strait since Biden took office, according to Taiwan News.
In early February, the USS John S. McCain sailed through the Taiwan Strait to carry out an operation near the Paracel Islands.
At the time, the Chinese protested the destroyer’s passage through the strait and were “closely monitoring” the ship.
On February 25, the USS Curtis Wilbur also traversed the waterway.
The USS John Finn’s transit happened as Beijing accused Admiral Philip Davidson of attempting to “hype up” the military threat that China posed. Davidson is a four-star admiral in the US Navy and is currently serving as the 25th commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.
Davidson had warned at a Senate committee hearing a day earlier that an invasion of Taiwan could be “imminent,” and happen within the next six years to a decade.
“I worry that [China] is accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order… by 2050,” Davidson said, according to The Guardian.
China’s President Xi Jinping has been open about his intention to “reunite” China with Taiwan, and his plans appear to have escalated over the past year. According to an SCMP report, People’s Liberation Army jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s airspace in 2020 alone.
In 2019, Xi said that taking Taiwan was “an inevitable requirement for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” according to the BBC.
Lye Liang Fook, a senior fellow and the coordinator of the regional strategic and political studies program at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said that the US was “sending a message that it is here to stay in the region,” by conducting operations in the Taiwan Strait so frequently.
“The message appears to be broader, implying that it is not just about Taiwan. It tells the world that the US is here to stay, and reinforces the view that even with the new Biden administration, there is in many ways a lot of continuity with the previous administration,” Lye said.
He added that the move to send destroyers to pass through the Taiwan Strait was a sign as well that the US views the region as a “critical area” that is in line with its long-term interests.
“It is an indication as well that the US actively supports the rule of law in the region, and is against the use of the “might is right” approach. In the long-term, the US would be interested in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, and resolving differences through negotiation and peaceful resolution,” Lye added.
Peking University professor Zha Daojiong, an academic at the college’s school of international studies, told Insider that the Chinese have the right to “monitor the movement,” presuming these are “innocent passage operations, as defined by international maritime law.”
According to UN conventions, the right of “innocent passage” refers to a vessel’s right to enter a territory as long as it does not prejudice the peace, good order, or security of other states.
“However, this is not the first time a US Naval vessel has moved through the Taiwan Strait. But such an operation, as long as it constitutes an innocent passage, is in line with Chinese laws on the country’s maritime space,” said Zha.
Insider has reached out to the US Navy for comment.
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