The Biden administration is sending warships through the Taiwan Strait on a monthly basis to stoke tensions with Beijing. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold steamed through the sensitive waterway on Wednesday, the seventh such passage during Biden’s presidency.
In 2020, the Trump administration sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait 13 times, a record high, and a reflection of the US military’s new focus on China. The US also stepped up provocations in the South China Sea in 2020, conducting nine passages near Chinese-claimed islands in the disputed waters, also a record high.
On Thursday, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) slammed the US for its latest provocation in the Taiwan Strait. “The US is the biggest destroyer of peace and stability … and the biggest maker of security risks across the Taiwan Strait,” the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement.
China also reacted to a speech by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that he made on Tuesday in Singapore. The Pentagon chief stressed the importance of alliances in the region and slammed what he called Beijing’s “destabilizing military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan.”
China’s embassy in Singapore published a statement on Thursday responding to Austin’s comments. “He not only interfered in China’s internal affairs by referring to matters relating to Taiwan and Xinjiang, but also played up the so-called China threat in an attempt to drive a wedge between China and its neighbors. These remarks distorted facts and created falsehoods, only to serve the US geopolitical strategy,” the statement said.
The Biden administration views alliance building in Asia as part of its anti-China strategy. Austin also made stops in Vietnam and the Philippines this week to boost cooperation. Austin has vowed to focus on China, and his Pentagon has identified Beijing as the top “pacing threat” facing the US military.