The Chinese military criticized a U.S. Navy for sailing the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday and said it responded to the “provocative acts” by sending its troops to closely monitor the ship throughout the Taiwan Strait transit.
“The U.S. has been frequently carrying out provocative acts to send wrong signals to ‘Taiwan Independence’ forces, deliberately undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Col. Shi Yi said in a Wednesday press statement.
Shi, who serves as a spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, said the “China is firmly opposed to this.”
Shi said the U.S. Navy drew attention to the Taiwan Strait transit and “hyped it up publicly.”
The U.S. 7th Fleet did announce the USS Sampson’s passage through the strait. The fleet said the USS Sampson “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 26 (local time) through international waters in accordance with international law.”
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the 7th Fleet added. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
While the 7th fleet called the Taiwan Strait transit a “routine” operation, Shi said the ship’s actions sent “wrong signals” to Taiwan. While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, mainland China considers the island to be a part of its territory.
Shi said the PLA Eastern Theatre Command sent troops to track and monitor the U.S. warship’s actions, and stayed on alert throughout its transit.
“The troops of the PLA Eastern Theatre Command always stay on high alert to resolutely defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Shi said.
The Taiwan Strait stretches a distance of about 112 miles between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Much of the strait is considered international waters, and the U.S. Navy routinely transits the waterway. Despite these routine U.S. actions in international waters, Chinese officials have frequently accused the U.S. Navy of using the transits to signal support for Taiwanese independence from China. PLA forces have followed U.S. warships in the Taiwan Strait in the past.
Earlier this month, the PLA Eastern Theater Command announced joint naval and aerial drills around Taiwan as a direct response to U.S. members of Congress visiting Taiwan and meeting with Taiwanese government officials. At the time, Shi said, “The military operation is the response to the provocative moves of the US side by sending wrong signals repeatedly on the Taiwan question.”