China forces 'on high alert' after US warship sails near Taiwan as envoy begs America for protection from Beijing
AN IRATE China has its forces on high alert after a US warship brazenly crossed the Taiwan Strait in what the communist country slammed as a "provocative" move.
The sea manoeuvre followed an envoy's plea for a stronger stance from America after China aired footage of a military exercise simulating an invasion of Taiwan.
China says it tracked a US Navy warship as it passed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.
The US Navy confirmed that it was the Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, adding that it "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit October 14 (local time) in accordance with international law.
"The ship's transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
"The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows."
But the South China Morning Post reports that America risks undermining peace and stability in the area.
China claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed.
This is a threat the island has lived with since 1949, when defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalist, forces fled there after their defeat by the Communists in the Chinese civil war.
Zhang Chunhui, spokesman for China’s eastern theatre command, urged America to stop “provocations and meddling”, according to state news agency Xinhua.
“The US has frequently sent wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces and seriously undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
The military spokesman said air and sea forces were mobilised to keep tabs on the USS Barry, a guided missile destroyer.
Although the Taiwan Strait is a public waterway, China is extremely sensitive to all US military moves in its periphery amid heightened tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, trade disputes and other issues.
"We are asking the United States to stop making trouble through its words and actions in the Taiwan Strait," Zhang said.
Chinese troops in the Eastern Theatre "remain on high alert, to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and safeguard peace and stability around the Taiwan Strait," he added.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a separate statement that the USS Barry sailed in a northerly direction through the strait and that its forces also monitored the warship, adding that the situation was "as normal.”
The action came after Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, urged America to show clearer signs on its promised commitment to Taiwan.
In October, the envoy wrote in the National Interest: "Taiwan is under tremendous pressure against China’s pervasive military, economic, and political coercion.
"Clear and concrete support from the United States and like-minded countries is more critical than ever."
The US has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing.
But, Washington is legally bound to ensure the island can defend against threats and is its biggest provider of military hardware.
Recent sales have included tanks, missiles and upgraded F-16 fighter jets, while reports say America is also preparing to offer drones, rocket systems and other missile systems.
USS Barry transited the Taiwan Strait hours after it was revealed that Xi Jinping ordered Chinese troops near Taiwan to "prepare for war" just days after a massive invasion drill off the island.
The Chinese president told his Navy to "focus all [your] minds and energy on preparing for war and maintain a high level of alert", state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported earlier this week.
Xi made the comments while inspecting the People's Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps base in Chaozhou, Guangdong.
Last Saturday, Chinese troops staged an invasion drill of Taiwan by simulating an attack in a large-scale military exercise.
Thousands of airborne and amphibious soldiers are seen attacking an unidentified island with rockets and drones in a video released by CCTV.
Taiwan warned China that it will strike back if the island is fired on after military exercises sparked invasion fears.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said that it had clearly defined procedures to deal with the “high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy’s warships and aircraft.”
They added: "The military regularly replenishes its precision missiles in accordance to military restructuring plans.
"The military’s stockpile of precision missiles is sufficient for defensive needs at the present stage."
Although their soldiers would not fire the first shot, they were authorised to fire back if Chinese forces did so.
Tensions rose further after Beijing aired a purported confession from a Taiwanese businessman who is being held captive on spying charges.
Beijing also recently doubled down on its assertion of control over the South China Sea as it swarmed warships around a US destroyer.
A Chinese military spokesman said: "We urge the US side to immediately stop such kind of provocative actions, strictly manage and control its maritime and air military operations so as not to cause any eventuality."
The guided-missile destroyer, called the John S. McCain, passed through the South China Sea last Friday.
The South China Sea and Taiwan Strait are international waters.
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