South China Sea: Tensions ERUPT as US destroyers make ‘illegal’ move through Taiwan Strait



SOUTH China Sea tensions have erupted following the transit of two US Navy destroyers through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday.

The transit, which has been confirmed by officials, comes days after Beijing attacked France calling a similar transit “illegal”. There have been no reports of a response from China. The Pentagon said the voyage was to increase the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.

he voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The US Pacific Fleet said in a statement: “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms.

The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15billion (£11.6billion) in weaponry since 2010.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.
China said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship on Wednesday, was “illegal.”

Speaking at a monthly news briefing in Beijing, Mr Guoqiang said the Chinese navy had dispatched ships to identify, warn and escort the French ship and would remain “highly alert to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.”

He added: “The Chinese military sent warships in accordance with the law, in order to identify the French ship and warn it to sail away.

“The Chinese side has already made solemn representations to the French side.”

Beijing’s concerns about Taiwan are likely to factor strongly into this year’s Chinese defence budget, following a stern New Year’s speech from President Xi Jinping, threatening to attack Taiwan should it not accept Chinese rule.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.