China says U.K. warship in Taiwan Strait shows “evil intentions”

China was incensed on Monday by the British government’s decision to send a Royal Navy warship sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, asserting that it “harbored malevolent intentions.” China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has increased pressure on the small island in recent years to accept Beijing as its capital.

The Royal Navy announced that the frigate named HMS Richmond, which is deployed as part of a U.K. aircraft carrier strike group, was passing through the Taiwan Strait on Monday, challenging Beijing’s claim to the strategic waterway.

According to local sources, it was the first time that a Royal Navy warship had sailed through the narrow waterway between Taiwan and mainland China. HMS Enterprise, a British navy survey ship, however passed through the strait in 2019.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the UK Ministry of Defense.

U.S. vessels frequently carry out “freedom of navigation” operations in the strait, which always elicit angry reactions from Beijing, which claims not only Taiwan but also the surrounding waters, along with almost the entire South China Sea, as its own territory.

The United States and most other nations consider these areas to be international waters, which should be open to all ships.

On Monday, China’s official response to the Royal Navy’s passage was muted, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying telling reporters that Beijing wished that the relevant countries can do more in order to develop mutual trust and protect peace and security in the region.

Previously, Washington was the primary global power prepared to sail through the Taiwan Strait. However, a growing number of allies of the United States have traveled this path as Beijing grows more militaristic in its threats against Taiwan and tightens its grip over the disputed South China Sea.

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In recent years, Canadian, French and Australian warships have made trips through the Taiwan Strait, prompting angry reactions from China.

According to Taiwan’s defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, a foreign vessel had passed through the strait, but he did not name the country.

Taiwan’s 23 million citizens face the constant danger of invasion by authoritarian China, which has vowed to take the island one day — by force if necessary.

Beijing has ratcheted up military, diplomatic, and economic pressure on Taiwan since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, who considers Taiwan to be already independent.

Last year, Chinese military aircraft flew over Taiwan’s national airspace a record 380 times, and the number of intrusions in Taiwan’s defensive zone has already reached 400 for the first eight months of 2021.

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