Taipei (Reuters) – China’s military rebuked the United States and Canada for “deliberately provoking risk” after the countries’ navies staged a rare joint sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and Canada’s HMCS Montreal conducted a “routine” transit of the strait on Saturday “through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”.
“Chung-Hoon and Montreal’s bilateral transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said in a statement.
The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its forces monitored the ships throughout and “handled” the situation in accordance with the law and regulations.
“The countries concerned deliberately create incidents in the Taiwan Strait region, deliberately provoke risks, maliciously undermine regional peace and stability, and send the wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces,” it said late Saturday.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the two ships sailed in a northerly direction through the strait and that it had observed nothing unusual.
While U.S. warships transit the strait around once a month, it is unusual for them to do so with those of other U.S. allies.
The mission took place as the U.S. and Chinese defence chiefs were attending a major regional security summit in Singapore.
At that event, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin rebuked China for refusing to hold military talks, leaving the superpowers deadlocked over Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
There was no immediate response to the sailing from China’s military, which routinely denounces them as a U.S. effort to stir up tensions.
The last such publicly revealed U.S.-Canadian mission in the narrow strait took place in September.
China has been ramping up military and political pressure in an attempt to force Taiwan to accept Beijing’s sovereignty claims, which the government in Taipei strongly rejects.