China on ‘high alert’ after US destroyer crosses Taiwan Strait in routine drill

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) sails through the Taiwan Strait (Commander, US 7th Fleet)
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) sails through the Taiwan Strait (Commander, US 7th Fleet)

China has raised its security to “high alert” after a US warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait in a routine drill and accused the US of provoking tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US should “immediately stop provoking troubles, escalating tensions and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” said Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, on Thursday, adding that Beijing strongly opposed the routine drill involving the guided-missile destroyer.

“US warships frequently flex muscles in the name of exercising freedom of navigation. This is not about keeping the region free and open,” the statement said.

It added that China will continue to be on “high alert and is ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time, and will resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The US military said it was sailing the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Chung-Hoon through the waters of the sensitive strait – over which China asserts dominance and has also built structures – in its first regular crossing of the region this year.

The US called it a “routine Taiwan Strait transit… through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”.

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It added that the warship moved through a corridor in the strait “that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state”.

Several allies of Taiwan like the US, Britain and Canada have transited through the strait but not without angering China which considers the self-governed island to be its own territory.

An official statement from the US military said Chung-Hoon’s transit through the Taiwan Strait “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The US military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows, military officials said.

In response, China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it is organising troops to monitor and guard Chung-Hoon’s transit, adding that “all movements were under control”.

Additionally, officials in Taiwan’s defence ministry said the ship sailed in a northerly direction through the strait and nothing out of the ordinary was observed by its forces monitoring the passage.

The strait falls in the South China Sea and has been rife with military tension, especially last year, after the US and South Korea carried out joint drills and China later flew its warplanes in the region.

Last month, a Chinese J-11 fighter jet came dangerously close – within 10 feet – of a US air force aircraft in the South China Sea, forcing it to take immediate evasive manoeuvres and prevent a collision in international airspace.

In the Indo-Pacific region, Beijing and Washington have been at loggerheads over Taiwan which has continued to maintain military and trade ties with the US.

The US is bound by law to help the island defend itself by providing means but also does not maintain any formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and does not formally recognise the self-governed island.