US warship transits Taiwan Strait after admiral's China invasion warning

TAIPEI (AFP) – A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the American navy said on Thursday (March 11), a day after a top US commander warned of the threat to Taiwan of a Chinese invasion within the next six years.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Finn conducted a routine transit on Wednesday through the waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, the US Seventh Fleet said.

The third such voyage since US President Joe Biden took office “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, it said in a statement.

US warships periodically conduct navigation exercises in the strait, often triggering angry responses from Bejing, which claims Taiwan and surrounding waters as its own territory. The US and many other countries view the route as international waters open to all.

The latest transit came the same day Beijing accused Admiral Philip Davidson, the top US military officer in Asia-Pacific, of attempting to “hype up” China’s military threat. At a Senate committee hearing a day earlier, Adm Davidson warned that the US was losing its military edge to China in the Pacific and gave a stark assessment that he believed an invasion of Taiwan by Beijing could be imminent.

“I worry that they’re (China) accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order… by 2050,” Adm Davidson said. “Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years,” he added.

President Xi Jinping has become the most bellicose leader since Mao Zedong, describing the seizure of Taiwan as “inevitable”. Beijing has stepped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, who views the island as “already independent” and not part of its “one China”.

Last year, Chinese military jets made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone, with some analysts warning that tensions between the two sides were at their highest since the mid-1990s.

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