Molan warns of a 'Black Sea-type blockade' in South China Sea
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The news comes as China ramps up its rhetoric over the disputed island, with Defence Minister Wei Fenghe stating that Beijing would be prepared to go to war over its claimed sovereign territory. Strong language was reciprocated by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin warned China not to engage in more “destabilising actions” in the region during talks in Singapore.
According to one defence expert, China has now escalated tension by issuing a warning over highly strategic waters in the region.
Writing on Twitter, Bloomberg’s Global Defence and Intelligence Correspondent Peter Martin said: “Chinese military officials in recent months have repeatedly asserted that the Taiwan Strait isn’t international waters during meetings with US counterparts, generating concern within the Biden administration.”
Warnings have been issued during various meetings between US and Chinese officials, causing relative concern to the Biden government.
The US and key allies say much of the strait constitutes international waters, and they routinely send naval vessels through the waterway as part of freedom of navigation exercises.
The US has rebuked China’s claims over the choke point waterway.
Biden administration officials have decided to reject a vague new assertion by China that the Taiwan Strait is not “international waters” and are increasingly concerned the stance could result in more frequent challenges at sea.
Taipei has labelled Chinese rhetoric on the matter as “absurd”.
Responding to the news, Taiwanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said it was absurd for Beijing to claim that the waterway separating the two sides of the Taiwan Strait was not international waters but the exclusive economic zone of the Chinese mainland.
She said: “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, which is outside of our territorial waters and is fit for the principle of freedom of navigation in the open sea.
“We perfectly understand and support the freedom of navigation missions by the United States that help promote peace and stability in the region.”
The argument from Beijing opposed the view.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “China enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait, while respecting the legitimate rights of other countries in the relevant maritime areas.
“There is no such thing as ‘international waters’ in UNCLOS. (International Convention on the Law of the Sea).
“By claiming that the Taiwan Strait is international waters, some countries intend to create an excuse for their manipulation of the Taiwan issue and threaten China’s sovereignty and security.”
China maintains Taiwan is part of the “One China” policy, a claim also disputed by the island.
Taiwanese officials are also concerned about the future plans of China, with Ms Ou adding: “The ambition of the Chinese side to swallow up Taiwan is evident, and for this, we cannot accept and must condemn it.”
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Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners speaking to US media said: “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and that includes transiting through the Taiwan Strait.”
The US most recently sent a warship – the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal – through the strait last month.
Australian National University Taiwan Studies Lecturer Wen-Ti Sung said Beijing’s latest declaration is likely to be met with pushback.
He said: “The US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations in and around the Taiwan Strait will likely increase in frequency and publicity to signal that the US disagrees with Beijing’s position.”
For more stories like this, follow Express.co.uk Defence and Security Correspondent James Lee on Twitter @JamesLee_DE
Further tension exists in the South China Sea where China is using modern technology to reclaim land from the sea, with islands springing up around the area.
US aircraft have frequently clashed with Chinese Navy vessels over the airspace surrounding the islands, with Beijing claiming the US breached airspace during flyovers, a claim US pilots vehemently denied in radio communication leaked to the public domain over the issue.
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