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China criticizes passage of USS John S. McCain through Taiwan Strait

The destroyer USS John S. McCain transited the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy announced. Photo by MCS1 Jeremy Graham/U.S. Navy
The destroyer USS John S. McCain transited the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy announced. Photo by MCS1 Jeremy Graham/U.S. Navy

April 7 (UPI) -- The transit of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday drew swift condemnation from the Chinese military.

The ship sailed through the strait separating Tainan and China, in a "routine exercise" demonstrating the "U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific [Ocean]," a Navy statement on Wednesday said.

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In a statement, Col. Zhang Chunhui, spokesman for China's People's Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, said the action sent an erroneous signal to forces supporting Taiwan's independence from China.

He added that the appearance of the ship undermined the regional status and jeopardized stability in the 110-mile strait, regarded as an international waterway.

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"China is firmly opposed to it," he said, noting that the PLA remains on high alert and ready to respond to threats.

While the independence of the island nation has been globally recognized since 1949, China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to eventually be reunited with the mainland country.

The United States has affirmed its interest in protecting Taiwan's independence, and Taiwan has been a regular purchaser of U.S. military equipment since 2015.

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The U.S. Navy routinely sends ships through the strait in a show of force, as well as solidarity with Taiwan, and China was critical of the March 30 visit to the island by U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland.

The visit suggests an era of greater coordination in the areas of security and defense between Taiwan and the United States, Lin Ting-hui of the Taiwan Society of International Law told the Taipei Times.

This week, China's navy conducted exercises, involving one of its two aircraft carriers, in waters near the strait.

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A U.S. Navy carrier strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, is also in the vicinity, in the South China Sea.

Earlier in March, Congressional testimony by the United States' two most senior admirals in Asia cited the growing threat of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Adm. Philip Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command and Adm. John Aquilino of the Pacific Fleet both mentioned its effect on Taiwan, and Aquilino contended that a Chinese "military takeover" of Taiwan was one of his greatest concerns.

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