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Warships from three navies transit the Taiwan Strait as regional tensions simmer

China recently has been angered by increased U.S. support for Taiwan.

Updated: December 20, 2020 - 10:55pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

International tensions were underscored in the South China Sea over the weekend, as three countries sent military units to transit the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin on Saturday sailed through the channel on a routine mission that drew quick rebuke from Beijing, which claims to have shadowed the American warship. China on Sunday then dispatched a naval strike group featuring its new aircraft carrier, the Shandong, prompting Taiwan to send six warships and eight military aircraft to monitor the Chinese ships.

"That's a lot of maneuvering in a small space in a short amount of time," a Pentagon official told Just the News. "Everyone has been very professional, but they are making their views clearly known."

Beijing and Taipei long have been at odds over Taiwan, an island apart from mainland China. The conflict is rooted in the Chinese Civil War, when Mao Tse Tung's communist forces battled Chiang-kai Shek's nationalists. The nationalists in 1949 fled to the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan. The Communist Chinese Party, based on the mainland, claims control over the independent Taiwan. 

Beijing recently has been angered by increased U.S. support for Taiwan, including new arms sales and visits to Taipei by senior U.S. military officers. Additionally, Beijing is unhappy that the president of Taiwan has bolstered the country's defense forces. 

The U.S. Navy has conducted numerous freedom-of-navigation exercises through the Taiwan Strait, the latest occurring Saturday. 

China claimed the transit was a provocation.

"Recently, U.S. warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait from time to time," said Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command. "They have deliberately raised the heat of the Taiwan issue … [and] sent flirtatious glances to Taiwan’s independence forces, severely jeopardizing peace and stability."

The Mustin's journey was a routine operation, the Navy countered.

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

In June, the PLA's Eastern Theater Command held combat exercises partially in the waters near Taiwan. Zhang at the time reportedly described them as "a necessary move responding to the current security situation in the Taiwan Straits and were meant to safeguard national sovereignty."

Five states have overlapping claims over portions of the South China Sea. They include China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

 

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