The Chinese government accused the United States of causing “trouble and provocation” in a statement on Thursday after the U.S. Navy sailed a warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
“U.S. warships and planes have caused trouble and provocation on China’s doorstep, and carried out large-scale, high-frequency activities in waters and airspace around China,” Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian told reporters at a monthly briefing.
The comment came after USS John Finn sailed through a corridor in the Taiwan Strait for the first time since Taiwan hosted its presidential election. The U.S. Navy defended the action, saying the destroyer’s path was “beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state.”
“John Finn’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement. “No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”
The Defence Ministry spokesperson said China will “continue to organize relevant military operations” in and around the Taiwan Strait.
China officially claims Taiwan, which is democratically governed and operates autonomously, as within its sovereignty. The U.S. and most other countries recognize this so-called “One China” policy and formally agree Taiwan is a part of China.
In the island’s most recent presidential election, the two leading candidates offered competing ideas on how Taiwan should relate to mainland China. The people of Taiwan elected William Lai, who campaigned on keeping distance from Beijing, in January. The President-elect will be inaugurated in May.
During the briefing, Wu also accused the Philippines of “violating China’s sovereignty and making provocations in the South China Sea” for attempting to reinforce construction in the contested Spratly Islands. The spokesperson also said Manilla was “in collusion with external powers.”
China also denied providing any weapons or equipment to the Middle East. The Israeli military accused China of being involved after it claimed it found Hamas militants using Chinese-made weaponry in the Gaza Strip.
Reuters contributed to this report.