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China cries ‘provocation’ after US warship sails through Taiwan Strait

The USS Benfold (DDG-65). (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class James Pinsky/Released)
July 20, 2022

The Chinese military has called foul and declared a U.S. warship is attempting provocation by sailing through international waters of the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet announced the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) conducted a routine transit of international waters in the Taiwan Strait. The 7th Fleet said USS Benfold “transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State.”

In response to USS Benfold’s transit of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command spokesperson Senior Colonel Shi Yi said it sent naval and air forces to conduct security tracking of the U.S. warship.

USS Benfold’s Taiwan Strait transit is in addition to two other so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea in the past week.

Though Taiwan acts as a de facto independent nation, The People’s Republic of China considers the island a part of its territory. China has also attempted to assert territorial claims over other sections of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands. On July 13, the Chinese military claimed that its naval and air forces “warned off” USS Benfold as it sailed near the Paracel Islands, a claim the U.S. 7th Fleet disputed. USS Benfold conducted another FONOP on July 16, near the Spratly Islands — another set of islands over which China has attempted to assert control.

On Wednesday the PLA said, “The frequent provocations and power shows made by the U.S. side have fully proven that the U.S. is the disrupter of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and the maker of security risk in the region.”

“Troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command are on high alert at all times to resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, said the statement,” the PLA added.

USS Benfold’s Taiwan transit on Tuesday was the sixth time a U.S. warship has transited the Taiwan Strait this year, according to Newsweek.

Last month, China reportedly tried to assert a maritime exclusive economic zone over the entirety of the Taiwan Strait. Though international maritime laws allow the warships of other nations to pass through a sovereign nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), China asserted its EEZ claims also give it the right to regulate any military activity in the covered area of the zone.

On Monday, China demanded President Joe Biden cancel a U.S. arms sale and contract for technical support to Taiwan with an estimated $108 million value. The U.S. arms sale is set to include spare and repair parts and assembly for tanks and combat vehicles, as well as an order for technical and logistical support from defense contractors.

On Tuesday, China threatened to take “resolute and strong measures” over reported plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to visit Taiwan in August. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the U.S. would “assume full responsibility for any ensuing consequences” from Pelosi’s Taiwan visit.