June 14 (UPI) — Taiwan on Tuesday called China’s claim of sovereign rights over the Taiwan Strait a “fallacy” and said it supported U.S. naval ships conducting freedom of navigation exercises in the waterway.
In a statement, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that “the Taiwan Strait is international waters” and said that areas outside of Taipei’s jurisdiction “are subject to the principle of ‘freedom of the high seas’ of international law.”
The U.S. Navy regularly sends warships through the strait and is occasionally joined by allies including Canada, Britain and France.
“We understand and support the benefits of the U.S. mission of freedom of navigation in promoting peace and stability in the region,” the Taiwanese statement said.
The ministry added that Beijing’s rejection of international law makes its hostile intentions toward the democratic, self-governing clear.
“China’s ambition to annex Taiwan is obvious,” the statement said.
Taiwan’s remarks came in response to Beijing’s recent public assertions about the waterway.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that China has “sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the Taiwan Strait and blamed the United States for “undermin[ing] cross-Strait peace and stability.”
China views Taiwan as a wayward province and has vowed to take it by force if necessary.
The democratic island of 23 million has become perhaps the main point of contention in the relationship between Beijing and Washington, as concern about China’s intentions grows in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is in its fourth month.
Beijing has ratcheted up military provocations over the past several months, with frequent incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and combat training exercises near the island — a practice Taipei calls “gray zone” warfare, meant to strain its defense capabilities and wear down its morale.
At a regional defense forum in Singapore over the weekend, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe and expressed concerns about the Chinese military’s “unsafe, aggressive, unprofessional behavior,” according to a Pentagon readout.
Austin also suggested that Beijing “may be attempting to change the status quo through its operational behavior.”
For his part, Wei doubled down on China’s commitment to taking control of Taiwan by any means necessary.
“If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight,” Wei told the forum in an address on Sunday. “We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China.”