The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command announced on Wednesday, a day after the USS Sampson sailed through Taiwan Strait that Chinese personnel tracked the US warship as it passed through the waters, calling the move a provocation that destroyed regional peace and stability, state media Global Times reported.
Chinese analysts believe that the PLA operation demonstrated its complete command in the Taiwan Straits, as well as its capability and determination to resolutely protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China has routinely opposed any visit or military activity in the strait. It considers Taiwan as its rogue province and has vowed to reunite it with the mainland.
It constantly criticizes the US for backing Taiwan, delivering military equipment, and visits by US legislators and other government officials.
The USS Sampson guided-missile destroyer performed a transit through the Taiwan Straits on April 26, and the event was widely publicized.
Senior Colonel Shi Yi, the spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement that the PLA Eastern Theater Command organized its forces to detect and monitor the US vessel throughout its whole voyage.
This comes shortly after the Chinese had escorted a US warship as it sailed through the South China Sea in January this year.
US Navy warship challenges Chinese territorial claims in South China Sea
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) January 20, 2022
Though the US stresses the concept of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’, China takes strong exception to the movement of the US and its allies in disputed waters close to China’s official cost.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said the statement from the US Navy following the warship’s transit. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
USS Sampson is a member of Destroyer Squadron 21, which is currently embarked on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). According to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker, the Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Philippine Sea.
The #PLA Eastern Theater Command monitored &maintained high alert during transit of the #US destroyer #USS Ralph Johnson through the #Taiwan Straits on Thursday. The US' provocation is sending a wrong signal to Taiwan secessionists, which is very dangerous. pic.twitter.com/YD5BkKgQ5l
— Ambassador Deng Xijun (@China2ASEAN) March 20, 2022
Earlier on February 28, the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) had also transited through the Taiwan Strait, which China regarded as a sign of US assurance to Taiwan, given that the mission took place during the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, this time, a very angry response to the claim of shadowing was reported from China.
Shadowed & Surrounded The Taiwan Strait
According to a Beijing-based military expert, the PLA may have dispatched both aircraft and naval forces for the mission and had the situation under control.
On Tuesday, two J-16 fighter jets entered Taiwan’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone, according to a news release from the island’s military authorities. The J-16 aircraft has been the most frequent visitor of the PLA Air Force to the Air Defense Identification Zone of Taiwan ever since the incursions began in 2020.
Further, a news release issued by Japan’s Ministry of Defense Joint Staff on the day of warship transit stated that the Type 054A guided-missile the Jimathe frigate Zhoushan and the Type 071 amphibious landing ship Yimengshan transited the Miyako Strait from southeast to northwest.
China PLA Navy Type 054A frigate Zhoushan and Type 071 amphibious transport dock Yimeng Shan transit Miyako Strait from Philippine Sea to East China Sea on April 26.https://t.co/1dsRa6AfIA pic.twitter.com/QbAiXcX5WO
— Ryan Chan 陳家翹 (@ryankakiuchan) April 26, 2022
According to Chinese observers, PLA warplanes and warships were active in both the southwest and northeast of the Taiwan Straits on Tuesday when the USS Sampson transited the Taiwan Strait waters.
The US has been sending warships across the Taiwan Straits every month, and the PLA has conducted similar missions to follow and monitor them each time, preventing them from making any harmful actions, according to a Chinese expert.
Earlier this month, China had deployed its fighter jets, bombers, and warships around Taiwan as part of military drills at a time when a visiting US Congressional delegation lent support to the cause of Taipei’s independence.
In response to the US warship, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office in China, said at a regular press conference that the Taiwan question concerns China’s core interests and that China will not allow and will resolutely oppose any external interference.
On its part, Taiwan has grown anxious about China’s aggressive posturing in the region against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the recent past, it has taken up a massive military modernization drive with the assistance of its partners in the West.
It also issued a civil defense handbook for its citizens to be used in the event of a Chinese attack on its territory.
As tensions between China and the United States escalate in the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan has become a cornerstone of both US and Chinese strategy in the wider region. Given Beijing’s unwillingness to relinquish space in the Taiwan Strait, the tensions are only set to rise.