China's military says it followed and monitored US destroyer in Taiwan Strait

The USS Benfold conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on July 19, 2022, said the US Navy. PHOTO: USS BENFOLD (DDG 65)/FACEBOOK

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's military said on Wednesday (July 20) it followed and monitored US destroyer Benfold's transit of the Taiwan Strait.

"The frequent provocations and showing-off by the United States fully demonstrate that the United States is a destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and a maker of security risks in the Taiwan Strait," said Chinese military's Eastern Theatre Command.

US Navy's 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday, "through international waters in accordance with international law".

"The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state," it said.

The US has been carrying out such voyages through the stretch of water separating Taiwan and China about once a month. This has angered Beijing, which views them as a sign of support for the island.

This month, China sent fighters across the Taiwan Strait's median line, an action that Taiwan described as a provocation. The incident came during a visit to Taipei by Senator Rick Scott, a Republican member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

On Monday, China asked the US to immediately cancel a potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated US$108 million (S$150 million).

The issue of Taiwan has been a constant irritant in ties between Washington and Beijing, which considers the democratically governed island its own territory.

On Tuesday, China warned that it would take "forceful measures" if US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, after the Financial Times said she would do so next month.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said any visit by Ms Pelosi would "seriously undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

"If the US side obstinately clings to this course, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

"The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this," Mr Zhao said.

When asked about China's reaction, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said: "I believe the foreign ministry was weighing in on a hypothetical. That is something that I will hesitate doing here".

A spokesman for the US National Security Council would not comment on "travel that the Speaker's office itself has not announced", and reiterated that the US remains committed to its one-China policy.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said it has "not received relevant information" about any visit.

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