China Protests U.S. Navy's Latest Transit Through Taiwan Strait

(Bloomberg) -- China again warned the U.S. against stoking military tensions after two American warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the third such show of force by the Navy this year.

The U.S. sailed an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and a Henry Kaiser-class fleet replenishment vessel through the strait on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent organization that tracks naval affairs. The U.S. regularly sales through what it views as international waters.

China “expressed concern to the U.S. side” over the move, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a briefing Thursday in Beijing. “The Taiwan issue concerns the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” he said.

Geng said Taiwan remains the “most important and sensitive issue” in relations between the two superpowers, repeating a message delivered to National Security Adviser John Bolton earlier this month by Yang Jiechi, a top Chinese official and member of the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo.

The transit comes shortly before highly anticipated talks between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. Trump has threatened tariffs on all Chinese goods unless progress is made towards a deal on revised terms of trade.

“The frequency of these reported passages is unprecedented,” said Collin Koh Swee Lean, research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “I’ll caution to add that these are reported transits, not counting possible unreported ones. Hence it’s hard to draw a full picture.”

It was the first U.S. show of force in the Taiwan Strait since the pro-independence party of President Tsai Ing-wen suffered resounding losses to the China-friendly Kuomintang opposition in local elections Nov. 24. Beijing’s state-run China Daily newspaper said the loss reflected unrest over Tsai’s policy toward the mainland.

Geng urged the U.S. to abide by the “one-China” policy and “properly handle Taiwan-related issues so as to avoid undermining China-U.S. relations and the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

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