China defends buzzing American warship in Taiwan Strait, accuses US of provoking Beijing
Jun 3, 2023, 8:46 PM | Updated: 10:06 pm
(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
SINGAPORE (AP) — China’s defense minister defended sailing a warship across the path of an American destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait, telling a gathering of some of the world’s top defense officials in Singapore on Sunday that such so-called “freedom of navigation” patrols are a provocation to China.
In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, Gen. Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn’t have any problems with “innocent passage” but that “we must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation.”
Just hours after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin rebuked China for refusing to hold military talks, the State Department said a senior US official will travel to China next week to try improve communications with Beijing https://t.co/4xmnBkN8CN pic.twitter.com/6iGEPMbIRc
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 4, 2023
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same forum Saturday that Washington would not “flinch in the face of bullying or coercion” from China and would continue regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to emphasize they are international waters, countering Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims.
That same day, as a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they transited the strait between the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and then veered across its bow at a distance of 150 yards (about 140 meters) in an “unsafe manner,” according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Additionally, the U.S. has said a Chinese J-16 fighter late last month “performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” while intercepting a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, flying directly in front of the plane’s nose.
Open lines of communication with the People’s Republic of China are essential—especially between our defense and military leaders.
For responsible defense leaders, the right time to talk is anytime, the right time to talk is everytime and the right time to talk is now. pic.twitter.com/0mk8VrrDVp
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) June 3, 2023
Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident occurring that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high.
Li suggested the U.S. and its allies had created the danger, and should instead should focus on taking “good care of your own territorial airspace and waters.”
“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”