China protests US Navy’s sail through Taiwan strait

BEIJING • China protested the latest transit through the Taiwan Strait by American warships, warning the US not to undermine relations between the two countries.

“China has been closely monitoring from start to end the passage by the US warships through the Taiwan Strait,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing in Beijing yesterday. “China has lodged stern representations with the US.”

Two US vessels entered Taiwanese waters off the island’s southwest coast heading north on Sunday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said in a statement yesterday.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the patrol, identified the vessels as the Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf.

The patrol comes days before a scheduled visit to Beijing by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as talks on a trade agreement continue. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to lead a delegation to Washington starting April 3.

The US has over the past year increased its naval transits through the 180km wide strait that separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. Sail-bys in January and February also drew protests from China, which considers the island a province.

Yesterday, China urged the US to avoid undermining ties between the world’s two biggest economies and support peace and stability in the strait, Geng said. — Bloomberg