U.S. warship transits Taiwan strait, prompting outcry from Beijing

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Mustin transited through the Taiwan Strait Saturday, sparking outrage from Beijing.

The warship’s move was done “in accordance with international law,” according to a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.

Such trips are regularly conducted in the strait to signal support for Taiwan, which Beijing contends is rightfully part of mainland China.

The transits also reinforce the fact that such waters are international.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” 7th Fleet said. “The United States military will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Seaman Marshall Key reports contact during a Thursday transit of the Taiwan Strait on board the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Shiloh. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chanel L. Turner/Navy)

But after Saturday’s transit, the Chinese military accused the United States of endangering stability with the move.

“They have deliberately raised the heat of the Taiwan issue … (and) sent flirtatious glances to Taiwan’s independence forces, severely jeopardizing peace and stability,” People’s Liberation Army spokesman Zhang Chunhui was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

Zhang said that the Chinese air force and navy tracked the Mustin, and that the United States was trying to leverage Taiwan “as a pawn for its own selfish strategic purposes.”

David Stilwell, the State Department’s top East Asia diplomat, told a Heritage Foundation forum this summer that Beijing was an increasing threat to regional stability, and that China was trying to threaten Taipei militarily and isolate the island diplomatically, Reuters reported in August.

“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate and marginalize Taiwan,” Reuters quoted Stilwell as saying.

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