A US warship has sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the American navy said after a top US commander warned of the threat to Taiwan of a Chinese invasion within the next six years.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Finn conducted a routine transit Wednesday through the waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, the US Seventh Fleet said.
The third such voyage since President Joe Biden took office “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said in a statement.
US warships periodically conduct navigation exercises in the strait, often triggering angry responses from Beijing, which claims Taiwan and surrounding waters as its own territory.
The US and many other countries view the route as international waters open to all.
The latest transit came the same day Beijing accused Admiral Philip Davidson, the top US military officer in Asia-Pacific, of attempting to “hype up” China’s military threat.
At a Senate committee hearing a day earlier, Davidson warned the US was losing its military edge to China in the Pacific and gave a stark assessment that he believed an invasion of Taiwan by Beijing could be imminent.
“I worry that they (China) are accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order … by 2050,” Davidson said.
“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years,” he added.
Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by authoritarian China, which views the island as part of its territory waiting to be reunified, by force if necessary.
President Xi Jinping has become the most bellicose leader since Mao, describing the seizure of Taiwan as “inevitable.”
In a statement, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it “resolutely” opposed the transit and criticized it as “flaunting”.
“The US ship’s passage sent the wrong message, intentionally meddling in and undermining the regional situation to endanger peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” said Air Force Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, a spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command.
Beijing has stepped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who views the island as “already independent” and not part of “one China.”
Last year, Chinese military jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s defense zone, with some analysts warning that tensions between the two sides were at their highest since the mid-1990s.