TAIPEI/BEIJING (Dispatches) -- Two U.S. warships have sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait drawing protest from Beijing, the second such mission this month and coming almost two weeks after a Chinese aircraft carrier group used the same waterway.
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has been angered by stepped-up U.S. meddling in the island, including arms sales and sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait, further souring Beijing-Washington relations.
The U.S. Navy said the guided missile destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur had "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Dec. 31 in accordance with international law”.
This is the 13th sailing through the strait by the U.S. Navy this year.
China’s Defense Ministry denounced the trip as "provocation” and "a show of force”, adding Chinese ships and aircraft trailed the U.S. ships.
The passage of the ships sent the wrong message to supporters of Taiwan secession and are a serious threat to peace and stability, it added.
"The Chinese People’s Liberation Army maintains a high level of alert at all times, responds to all threats and provocations at all times, and resolutely defends national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the ministry said.
China’s military said it had tailed the last U.S. warship to pass through the Taiwan Strait on Dec. 19, and denounced the mission.
China on Thursday strongly urged U.S. politicians not to interfere in its domestic affairs through using issues in the Chinese region of Xinjiang after Washington demanded the release of a Uighur physician charged with terrorism.
At a regular news conference in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called on the U.S. "to respect facts, stop making lies to smear China, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Xinjiang-related issues.”
The ethnic minority of Uighurs — who make up about 45 percent of the population in Xinjiang — have long accused the government in Beijing of cultural, religious, and economic discrimination.
China rejects claims of mistreating the Uighurs, saying it has in fact been taking anti-terrorism measures against separatists seeking to join takfiri outfits such as Al-Qaeda.
Beijing says it has set up "vocational education and employment training centers” in Xinjiang to tackle underdevelopment and a lack of employment in the area, but
Wang’s comments came just a day after Washington called for the release of Gulshan Abbas, claiming that China had sentenced the retired Uighur medical doctor to 20 years in prison because of her family members’ human rights activism in the U.S.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman rejected the claims, saying she was jailed for committing terrorism-related crimes.