China sent a military vessel to ‘combat situation’ with Taiwan

BEIJING — U.S. lawmakers were rushed by military planes to Taiwan on Wednesday after what Taiwan said was a high-level Chinese patrol boat sent to a “combat situation” southwest of the island, China’s Defense…

China sent a military vessel to ‘combat situation’ with Taiwan

BEIJING — U.S. lawmakers were rushed by military planes to Taiwan on Wednesday after what Taiwan said was a high-level Chinese patrol boat sent to a “combat situation” southwest of the island, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that the mission was an “improper intrusion” and that China was displaying its “military bullying” toward the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan as its territory and has made no secret of its interest in eventually taking back the island.

In Washington, the top U.S. military officer said that it’s not unusual for Chinese officials to review U.S. Navy ships that are “indicating they may be patrolling around the island.” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said that such “chatter” can only be assumed to be referring to an intelligence or other routine U.S. ship, not a threat to its security.

China’s Defense Ministry said that Chinese maritime surveillance ships sent a “combat readiness patrol” to the Straits of Taiwan on Wednesday morning after an unidentified U.S. Navy ship caused “indicators to change” in the area.

“It’s true that the U.S. ship suddenly and unexpectedly deliberately caused the disturbance, thereby causing a lot of concern and fear among Taiwan compatriots and sailors of the Armed Forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of China,” the ministry said in a statement, using Taiwan’s official name.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that the U.S. ship had been sailing for five days in the area with a Philippine naval vessel, and that it appeared to have been intending to dock at a Chinese navy base.

Richardson said that an early analysis of the Taiwanese report showed that its assertion was likely accurate.

“They have a right to know what we’re doing,” Richardson said of China.

Richardson declined to say whether he thought that Beijing’s patrol was in response to his calls this week for the two sides to improve their defense relations, and said he didn’t think the visit by the Taiwan members of Congress was specifically aimed at China.

“I think it’s just part of regular engagement with our traveling members and officials in the region,” Richardson said, noting that there were already three or four members of Congress from Taiwan visiting the mainland on a regular basis. “You don’t want them lost in a sea of confusion on this subject.”

A few members of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, including Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, were visiting China at the time of the incident. Panetta’s office said that his talks with Chinese officials throughout the day “led to an important understanding of the important differences between the two countries on a number of issues, including Taiwan and the future of U.S.-China relations.”

U.S. and Chinese military officials have for years been exchanging warnings over possible high-ranking visits to Taiwan by the visiting lawmakers. In 2012, China demanded that the U.S. not let the California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who was expected to visit Taiwan then, visit.

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