A U.S. coast guard ship transited the Taiwan Strait after Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from his two-day trip to Beijing, a move the Chinese coast guard claimed has sparked “public speculation.”
The legend-class coast guard cutter Stratton conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit on June 20” to demonstrate the United States’s commitment to “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” it stated. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said its military monitored the surrounding sea and airspace during the U.S. transit and concluded that “the situation was normal.” The U.S. ship sailed through the strait from south to north.
China responded by sending its coast guard ships to track the U.S. ship. The Chinese communist regime vowed Thursday to “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and maritime rights and interests.”
China Flies 29 Warplanes Near Taiwan
Some 29 Chinese aircraft flew near Taiwan and 10 Chinese navy vessels were spotted surrounding the self-ruling island from June 21 to June 22, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
The ministry said that four of the Chinese aircraft were spotted entering Taiwan’s southwest and southeast air defense identification zone (ADIZ), prompting Taiwan to scramble aircraft and vessels in response.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, has stepped up military activities near the island to force it to accept Chinese sovereignty.
Stratton’s transit came just a day after Blinken and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a “robust conversation” in Beijing on June 19, during which both sides agreed to stabilize the tense relations between the two powers.
While Blinken and Xi both expressed a willingness to continue the communication, there’s little indication that the Chinese regime is prepared to bend from its positions on issues such as Taiwan.
Blinken said at a June 19 press meeting that the United States will continue to advocate its “One China” policy, under which Washington officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei.
“We do not support Taiwan independence. We remain opposed to any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side. We continue to expect the peaceful resolution to cross-state differences,” he said.
Biden Calls Xi Dictator
However, it appears that President Joe Biden sparked another rift by referring to Xi as a “dictator” shortly after Blinken returned from his trip to Beijing.
Biden said the recent incident with the Chinese spy balloon, which was shot down by the U.S. military after having transited over the United States, had caused “great embarrassment” for Xi.
“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment in it was he didn’t know it was there,” Biden said at a fundraiser event in California.
“That’s a great embarrassment for dictators. When they didn’t know what happened. That wasn’t supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course,” he added.
Biden later dismissed concerns about the potential complications of his remarks on improving relations with China, saying “I don’t think it’s had any real consequence” during a press conference on June 22.
The CCP issued a démarche—a diplomatic step taken by a country to express its discontent to another country—to the U.S. ambassador in response to Biden’s remarks, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning condemned the president’s remarks as “seriously violate diplomatic protocol” and “severely infringe on China’s political dignity.”
“It is a blatant political provocation,” Mao said, according to the Associated Press.
Hannah Ng, Tiffany Meier, and Reuters contributed to this report.