Amid increasing unease surrounding the palpable tensions between superpowers China and the United States over Taiwan, an incident unfolding last Saturday proved to be a harrowing reminder of the potential dangers lurking beneath the surface.
In a press release, the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) reported a near collision incident between China’s Type 052D Luyang III-class guided-missile destroyer (PRC LY 132) and US Navy’s USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer over the Taiwan Strait on June 3.
The USS Chung-Hoon, in accordance with international law, was in the midst of a routine joint exercise with the Canadian Navy’s HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) in the strait when the Chinese warship operated by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) made an unsafe maneuver about 150 yards (137 meters) away from the US destroyer.
INDOPACOM noted in the statement how the PRC LY 132 “overtook Chung-Hoon on their port side and crossed their bow at 150 yards,” forcing the latter to slow down at ten knots to avoid a collision. The Chinese warship crossed the American destroyer’s bow the second time “starboard to port,” but this time, the former did the maneuver at 2,000 yards (about 1,829 meters) before remaining “off Chung-Hoon’s port bow.”
The statement added that the reckless actions carried out by the PLAN’s destroyer “violated the maritime ‘Rules of the Road’ of safe passage in international waters.”
A proper dialogue between the US and China remains under murky waters as the latter, through its defense minister General Li Shangfu, rebuked Washington for “acts of provocation” near its territory—including Taiwan that Beijing insists on claiming as theirs despite Taepei’s clear declaration of sovereignty.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, Li also noted the resurfacing of a “cold war mentality” between the two nations. Accusing the US of engaging in “bullying and hegemony,” Li further cautioned them against meddling in what he called “China’s backyard.” He also emphasized the need for mutual respect and non-interference to avoid exacerbating tensions between the countries. Ironically, his remarks came a day after he declined to have a discussion with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Asian summit.
Not The First Time
The recent US-Canada joint exercise unfolded in the strait between China’s expansive mainland and the island country of Taiwan, with the participating forces conducting a routine south-to-north transit through international waters. Canadian media, Global News, traveling aboard HMCS Montreal, witnessed the near collision and managed to capture video footage of the alarming event.
Furthermore, Captain Paul Mountford, the commander of HMCS Montreal, disclosed that before the incident occurred, the Chinese warship had radioed both the Canadian frigate and American destroyer, asserting that they were trespassing into Chinese territory. It is worth noting that the joint mission was being carried out well within internationally recognized waters, making this assertion groundless.
While the Chinese warship didn’t pull the same stunt on HMCS Montreal, Global News reports indicate that they have observed the PLAN closely tailing the Canadian frigate several times throughout their South China Sea transit.
This incident is the latest close call between the two superpowers. Just a few days prior, on May 26, another incident unfolded when a Chinese J-16 fighter jet performed an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” directly in front of the US RC-135 aircraft, intercepting it over the South China Sea.
INDOPACOM, in a statement, affirmed that the US Air Force was engaging in safe and routine operations within international airspace in the region when the Chinese aircraft engaged in its provocative actions.
The recurring nature of these confrontations raises serious concerns about the escalating tensions and the potential for miscalculations that could lead to unintended consequences.
Taiwan Receives Stinger Missiles
In other news, Taiwan finally received the first batch of American-built FIM-92 Stinger air defense missiles in late May as part of the $500 million US emergency military aid package for the island country. Due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the Stinger missile arrived in Taiwan later than its initial expected delivery date, Taipei Times reported.
With the increasing plausibility of a Chinese invasion, Taiwan has been actively cooperating with the United States to bolster its defense capabilities. One area of focus has been enhancing its air defense systems, which some military experts have deemed relatively weaker compared to China’s rapidly modernizing forces.
You might want to check out “The Chinese Invasion Threat,” where author Ian Easton delves into Taiwan’s defense preparations in the event of an invasion and tackles the potential implications of such a conflict for the US and the world. Grab a copy here!