China says US patrols raise tensions in Taiwan Strait

China angered by second US “freedom of navigation exercise” this month in Asia Pacific waters.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold conducts routine underway operations.
The USS Benfold on routine operations. China has reacted angrily to the ship sailing through the Taiwan Strait [US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthur Rosen/US Navy]

China’s Ministry of Defence has accused the United States of taking “security risks” and disrupting the stability of the Taiwan Strait when it sailed a guided-missile destroyer through the waterway earlier this week.

Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command, said in a statement on Wednesday that China had tracked the USS Benfold from the US 7th Fleet from the sea and the sky during its trip on Tuesday.

The US regularly sends naval patrols through the 180km-wide Taiwan Strait to assert international law on the freedom of navigation and to show support for Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy claimed by China.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a nation’s sovereign territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22.2km) from the coastline.

China claims both the Strait’s waters off its coastline and those off Taiwan. In recent years, it has moved to define the entire waterway as its territorial waters.

The US 7th Fleet said its exercise on Tuesday was conducted “in accordance with international law” and “through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state” in a tacit reference to China.

Both sides exchanged similar barbs last week when the USS Benfold sailed close to the Parcel Islands in the South China Sea in a separate “freedom of navigation exercise”.

Some of the archipelago’s small islands are occupied by China, but they are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China also claims much of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, a vast six-week regional military exercise led by the US Navy also hit the halfway mark this week, according to the US Naval Institute.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, also known as RIMPAC, involves 14 countries this year, including South Korea, Australia and Japan.

The exercises are held in the waters around California and Hawaii and are due to conclude on August 4.

Source: Al Jazeera