- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 8, 2021

Tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan are escalating, with Beijing accusing Washington of engaging in “intimidation and coercion” by sailing American military ships through the Taiwan Strait.

The accusation Thursday by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official came a day after the Biden administration voiced frustration over increasingly aggressive Chinese military moves in the airspace and waters around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its sovereign territory.

State Department spokesman Ned Price expressed “great concern” on Wednesday at what he described as a Chinese government campaign to “intimidate in the region,” citing in articular Taiwan.

There has been a recent spike in Chinese fighter jet incursions into airspace claimed by Taiwan, including drills practicing for a potential invasion, forcing Taiwan’s military to scramble to counter the threat. China has long held back because of the defensive umbrella provided by the U.S. military, but has grown increasingly aggressive as its own military capacity has built up in recent years.

Mr. Price also warned China over other assertive moves in the South China Sea, where some 200 Chinese vessels have recently amassed around the Whitsun Reef inside waters claimed by the Philippines, in an apparent attempt to take control of the reef or at least block Philippine ships from accessing it.

Mr. Price told reporters the Biden administration would honor a mutual defense treaty with Manila to come to its aid if attacked.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Thursday that it was Washington, not Beijing, that is responsible for the recent escalation of tensions regarding Taiwan, saying U.S. naval moves were encouraging pro-independence forces on the island democracy.

“Lately, U.S. warships have frequently sailed to the Taiwan Strait to flex muscles, provoke and stir up trouble, sending gravely wrong signals to ‘Taiwan-independence’ forces and threatening peace and stability across the region,” said Mr. Zhao. Taiwan, he added, “is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”

“Who is actually guilty of intimidation and coercion?” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman asked with a condescending tone.

“Have Chinese warships gone to the Gulf of Mexico to flex muscles?”

The Pentagon said U.S. naval forces are carrying out “routine operations” in the region, with the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group having entered the South China Sea on April 4. The USS John S. McCain guided-missile destroyer separately transited the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.

Chinese officials say they tracked the McCain closely throughout its passage.

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