A US Navy destroyer transiting the Taiwan Strait today had a considerable number of watchers accompanying her. Chinese warships and aircraft closely monitored the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Mustin as she sailed through the tense waters separating China from Taiwan. Mustin was conducting a Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercise run to remind China of the US commitment to free and open sea movement in the Western Pacific. The destroyer was observing international law closely during the transit and not taking any actions which could be considered provocative.
China had a different opinion, however. Reuters has reported the Chinese government accused the US of provocation and a statement released by the Chinese military supports this claim. FON missions “deliberately raise the temperature of the Taiwan issue, as they fear calm in the Taiwan Strait, and send flirtatious glances to Taiwan independence forces, seriously jeopardizing peace and stability in the strait.”
It was the location of the FON exercise that has concerned China most. US Navy warships have moved through the Taiwan Strait over a dozen times in the past year, leading Beijing to worry that a US-Taiwan military relationship is currently in the making. China vehemently opposes such a relationship now at a time when it is concerned Taiwan could be planning to declare its independence. At present, China views Taiwan as a breakaway province destined to be reattached to the mainland at some point in the future. Preferably by peaceful means. In recent months, however, China has been rattling its saber with increasingly vexatious and regular military exercises around Taiwan.
There is a growing level of concern in Taiwan that the incoming Biden administration will adopt a less aggressive stance against China’s expansionist aims compared to the Trump administration. This change, some government officials in Taipei worry, could persuade Beijing to move against Taiwan within the next 12 to 15 months.