J. Michael Cole
Beijing is determined to rewrite the rules in the Asia-Pacific region. And Taipei will suffer.
China on Monday accused the United States of “playing psychological games” and “harming peace and stability” after two U.S. Navy warships transited the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, the first such passage since July 2017.
The Japan-based USS Mustin and USS Benfold Arleigh Burke-class destroyers made the transit in international waters late on Saturday evening as part of routine freedom of navigation passages. U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown said that “U.S. Navy ships transit between the South China Sea and East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait and have done so for many years.”
Beijing’s response, as expected, was to decry the transits—notwithstanding their routine nature and the fact that in the past Chinese authorities had remained silent when they occurred—as “provocative.” On Sunday, Taiwan Affairs Office director Liu Jieyi accused Washington of “playing the Taiwan card,” while over at the foreign ministry, spokesperson Hua Chunying stated that “the Taiwan issue is related to Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “urged” the United States “to at once scrupulously abide by the one-China principle . . . and avoid harming China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” (Note: the United States abides by its “one China” policy, which merely acknowledges Beijing’s contention that there is only one China, as well as the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the Three Communiqués and Six Assurances. The United States is under no obligation whatsoever to abide by Beijing’s “one China” principle. Saturday’s passage in no way contravened any of those policies.)