UPDATE: PLA monitors US warship transit in Taiwan Straits amid Ukraine crisis, slams move as ‘hypocritical, futile’
Published: Feb 26, 2022 02:25 PM
A J-10 fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Southern Theater Command takes off from the runway during a combat flight training exercise on February 9, 2022. Photo:China Military

A J-10 fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Southern Theater Command takes off from the runway during a combat flight training exercise on February 9, 2022. Photo:China Military

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) tracked and monitored a US warship which made a transit in the Taiwan Straits on Saturday, and while the voyage of the US vessel seemed to be a regular move, it sent a wrong signal to the Taiwan secessionists amid their concern that they could be abandoned by the US like Ukraine, Chinese mainland experts said.

The USS Ralph Johnson, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, sailed through the Taiwan Straits on Saturday, and the PLA Eastern Theater Command organized forces to track and monitor its entire course on high alert, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson at the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement on Saturday.

The US provocation is an attempt to lend support to Taiwan secessionist forces, which is hypocritical and futile, Shi said, noting that the theater command troops are remaining vigilant at all times to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and peace and stability in the region.

Shi's statement comes after the US destroyer appeared in the south of the Taiwan Straits Saturday morning and started to make a transit through the region under the intelligence support from a US Navy EP-3E electronic reconnaissance aircraft, which also operated at the southern end of the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank, revealed on Saturday.

The US Navy kept low profiles and did not actively announce their previous two transits, made by the USS Chaffe destroyer on December 15, 2021 and the USS Dewey destroyer on January 22, 2022, so the latest transit by the USS Ralph Johnson is not the first time a US warship has crossed the Taiwan Straits in 2022, the SCSPI noted.

While the ongoing Ukraine-Russia tussle is intensifying, the US military is attempting to demonstrate its capabilities to stir up trouble on "two sides of the world", meaning in Europe and Asia, and by doing so it sent a wrong signal to the "Taiwan independence" forces, the analysts said.

In dealing with the Ukraine crisis, the US would rely on the 6th Fleet and the European Command, and at the same time, Washington relies on the 7th Fleet and the Indo-Pacific Command to shadow China, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday.

At a time when the international security situation is becoming so intense, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) needs to raise alert levels on possible provocations made by the US military in order to resolutely safeguard China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Song said.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command likely organized naval and air forces to track and monitor the US vessel through its entire course while it made the transit in the Taiwan Straits, observers say. 

US President Joe Biden made it clear that US troops will not be sent to Ukraine to intervene in the military conflict, CNN reported on Thursday. This has triggered alarms on the island of Taiwan on whether the US military will come to Taiwan's aid if the Chinese mainland decides to reunify with the breakaway island by force.

The US warship's latest Taiwan Straits transit sent a wrong signal to the Taiwan secessionists, analysts said, noting that the move should not be misinterpreted as the US military's readiness to fight for the island, because a regular, non-combat voyage is not the same as that, some analysts said.

Whether the Taiwan authorities will be abandoned by the US or not, the PLA ought to be ready to resolve the Taiwan question under all circumstances, including scenarios that the US military interferes, Song said.

The Taiwan authorities should give up its illusions and must stop secessionist attempts, Song said.

On the other hand, the US military, government and media are hyping that Taiwan could be the next Ukraine, throwing mud at the Chinese mainland in order to make the reunification more difficult, and ramp up stock prices for the US military-industrial complex, analysts said.

But Taiwan is not Ukraine, as Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. "The Taiwan region's peace hinges on the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, rather than fawning on foreign forces for arms sales and military support," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a routine press conference on Wednesday.

"Taiwan independence" only leads to a dead end, and no one should have any illusion or make any miscalculation on this issue, Hua said.

Eight PLA aircraft, namely four J-11 fighter jets, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and two J-16 fighter jets, entered the island of Taiwan's self-proclaimed southwest "air defense identification zone"on Saturday, the defense authority on the island claimed.