The United States military has released a video of what it described as an “unsafe” manoeuvre by a Chinese warship in the Taiwan Strait on the weekend amid sharpening rhetoric between the two powers.
During the incident, which took place on Saturday, a Chinese navy ship, Luyang III, is seen cutting sharply across the path of a US destroyer which slowed down to avoid a collision. The Chinese ship then straightened up and continued on a parallel course.
The US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon and Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal were conducting a so-called “freedom of navigation” transit of the strait between Taiwan and mainland China.
The Chinese guided-missile destroyer overtook the Chung-Hoon on its port side, then veered across its bow at a distance of some 137 meters (150 yards), according to the US Indo-Pacific Command.
China claims the democratic self-governing island of Taiwan as part of its own territory, and maintains the strait is part of its exclusive economic zone, while the US and its allies regularly sail through and fly over the passage to emphasise their contention that the waters are international.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the actions violated maritime rules of safe passage in international waters.
The Chinese ship did not attempt a similar manoeuvre on the Canadian frigate, which was sailing behind the US destroyer.
“Chung-Hoon and Montreal’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the combined US-Canadian commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US Indo-Pacific Command said. “The US military flies, sails, and operates safely and responsibly anywhere international law allows.”
The US recently accused China of also performing an “unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre” in the air, saying a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month flew directly in front of the nose of a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.
Such incidents have raised concerns over a possible accident that could lead to a military escalation between the two countries at a time when tensions in the region are already high.
The incident in the Taiwan Strait came on a day when both US defence secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu were in Singapore for an annual defence conference.
Li on Sunday suggested that the US and its allies have created the danger with their patrols, and were intent on provoking China.
“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China, we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
He also said Beijing seeks dialogue over confrontation with the United States, warning that any conflict between the two nations would bring “unbearable disaster for the world”.