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China says its aircraft, ships stalked a US warship in the Taiwan Strait

USS Mustin (DDG 89) transits the Taiwan Strait, Dec. 19, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Arthur Rosen)
December 21, 2020

China said its air and naval forces stalked USS Mustin (DDG 89) as it passed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday. The U.S. Navy said its ship operated in accordance with international law, however.

China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it “tailed and monitored” the USS Mustin throughout its course, according to Reuters. China also criticized the U.S. presence in the Taiwan Straight, describing the U.S. mission as one to send “flirtatious glances” to Taiwan.

Taiwan rules itself as an independent nation, but of which China claims sovereignty. Taiwan rests about 81 miles from China at the narrowest point of the Taiwan Strait.

The U.S. Navy described the USS Mustin’s course through the Taiwan Strait as a routine transit of the strait, which separates the democratically-run Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.

The U.S. Navy made no mention of Chinese forces in the area.

The U.S. Navy said, “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The Chinese military command said the U.S. ship’s actions “deliberately raise the temperature of the Taiwan issue, as they fear calm in the Taiwan Strait, and send flirtatious glances to Taiwan independence forces, seriously jeopardizing peace and stability in the strait.”

The Chinese statement further accused the U.S. of engaging in a show of force and using Taiwan as a pawn for its own strategic purposes.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it also monitored USS Mustin’s movements and said: “the situation was as normal”.

The USS Mustin’s transit of the Taiwan Strait represents the 12th time this year that the U.S. Navy sent a ship through the strait, asserting U.S. rights to navigate the waterways between mainland China and Taiwan, in spite of China’s claim of sovereignty over the island.

While the U.S. has maintained the One China Policy since 1979, recognizing Chinese sovereignty of Taiwan, the U.S. has also increasingly navigated ships and aircraft around Taiwan and communicated with Taiwanese officials. In October, the U.S. approved weapon sales to Taiwan, prompting Chinese retaliatory sanctions against U.S. arms manufacturers, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.

Chinese warplanes flew over Taiwanese airspace as U.S. diplomat Keith Krach visited the country in September. China has increasingly warned Taiwan against strengthening its ties with the U.S.

According to Reuters, China suspects Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wants to declare Taiwan’s independence from China, a move that would cross a diplomatic red line for China. Tsai already refers to Taiwan as an independent country and refers to Taiwan as the Republic of China. Tsai has also prioritized building up Taiwan’s defense forces as a platform of her administration.