China military says it tracked US Navy through Taiwan Strait

US Secretary of Defence warns of potential conflict and calls for better communication between nations

US and Canadian warships transited through the Taiwan Strait. AFP
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China's military tracked the passage of two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, as US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin expressed caution regarding conflict in the area.

Both China's Navy and air force followed the movements of two ships, one American and the other Canadian, across the strait, according to a statement from the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command.

The statement accused the US and Canada of disrupting peace and stability in the region.

The US Navy's transit through the Taiwan Strait coincided with a meeting of American and Chinese military leaders at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Mr Austin stated that any conflict over Taiwan could affect the global economy in unpredictable ways.

Following the Biden administration's decision to maintain sanctions placed on Li in 2018, China declined a meeting request between Mr Austin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, at the conference.

The two leaders, however, did shake hands during a dinner on Friday.

Mr Austin repeated his call for better communication between the American and Chinese militaries, expressing his concerns about a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Mr Austin said: “For defence leaders, it is always the right time to talk, and that time is now.

“I am concerned that the People’s Republic of China has not shown willingness to discuss better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries. I hope for a change in this stance.”

The US regularly passes through the narrow strait between Taiwan and China, with China considering the self-governing island as part of its territory.

The most recent publicly known transit was in April.

Following Saturday’s transit, the Chinese military expressed its readiness to respond to any threats and safeguard its national sovereignty, security, and regional stability.

The statement did not specify any further actions China may take.

Updated: June 04, 2023, 5:56 AM