The Chinese military's Eastern Theatre Command has stated that its air and naval forces "tailed and monitored" the American destroyer USS Mustin as it on 19 December passed through the Taiwan Strait – a buffer zone that separates China from Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory but that it de-facto does not control.
China condemned the act as contributing to the tensions in the region and not peace, as the US routinely claims. Beijing further alleged that the destroyer's passage through the strait was a "flirtatious" message to forces seeking Taiwan's "independence".
"[US missions] deliberately raise the temperature of the Taiwan issue, as they fear calm in the Taiwan Strait, and send flirtatious glances to Taiwan independence forces, seriously jeopardising peace and stability in the strait", the Chinese statement said.
Beijing further accused Washington of attempting to use Taiwan as a pawn for its geopolitical objectives in the region.
The US Navy, in turn, stated that the USS Mustin had conducted a "routine" passage through the straight and claimed that it was carried out in accordance with international law. The US Navy has not commented on the fact that China did not grant permission for the US destroyer to transit the strait, which the country considers its territorial waters, or that Beijing has repeatedly condemned such actions in the past.
"The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific", the US Navy stated regarding the actions of its vessel.
Tensions in the South China Sea
This is the 12th time Washington has sent a military vessel through the Taiwan Strait this year alone, despite continued objections from Beijing. China sees the island as a part of its territory, although does not technically control it. The US agreed to adhere to the One-China policy back in 1972, but has recently been communicating with Taiwanese authorities directly, up to the point of discussing the sale of military equipment to the island, to Beijing's great discontent.
In addition to this, Washington has routinely been sending its warships to the South China Sea, whose waters are disputed by five states but which are mostly controlled by China. The US carries out these activities under the pretext of Freedom of Navigation Operations, but Beijing has repeatedly denounced them as "provocations", warning that they might eventually result in an armed confrontation between the two states if Washington does not change its approach.