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China defends close approach to American warship in Taiwan Strait

China said it was responding to a provocation when one of its ships approached a patrol in international waters.
China defends close approach to American warship in Taiwan Strait
Posted at 8:39 AM, Jun 04, 2023

A high-level Chinese official defended a close encounter between Chinese and U.S. warships in the Taiwan Strait on Saturday.

A Chinese vessel made a close pass in front of a U.S. destroyer and a Canadian frigate on Saturday as they crossed through the Taiwan Strait. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the Chinese ship overtook the destroyer and then crossed in front of its bow while it was about 150 yards away. 

The U.S. and Canadian ships were making what is known as a "freedom of navigation" patrol. Since 1979, U.S. military vessels have routinely made patrols as a way to support international law and resist countries that "unlawfully restrict the freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea."

China considers the self-governing island of Taiwan to be part of its territory, and frequently responds to activity in nearby international waters and airspace that it considers provocative. Chinese officials said Saturday's patrol was one such provocation.

In an international address Saturday, China's defense minister Gen. Li Shangfu said China "must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation."

SEE MORE: China wraps up days of drills, warning Taiwan after its US visit

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin countered that the U.S. would continue its patrols in the international waters of the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, pushing back on China's territorial claims. He said the U.S. wouldn't "flinch in the face of bullying or coercion" on the part of China.

The incident comes after an aerial encounter in May over the South China Sea, when a Chinese J-16 fighter cut close across the nose of a U.S. reconnaissance plane in international airspace. 

The U.S. has complained of more aggressive intercepts from China in recent years, and there are concerns that any accident could cause tensions between the countries to escalate.

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