BEIJING (Dispatches) -- China strongly condemned Britain on Monday for sailing a warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, saying it was behavior that “harbored evil intentions” and that the Chinese military followed the vessel and warned it away.
A post on the ship’s Twitter account said HMS Richmond passed through the strait en route to Vietnam. It had been deployed in the East China Sea while taking part in United Nations sanctions enforcement operations against North Korea, the post claimed.
China claims Chinese Taipei as its own territory and has stepped up military and political pressure to persuade the renegade island to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While U.S. warships pass through the strait on an almost monthly basis, despite Chinese opposition, U.S. allies have generally been reluctant to follow suit.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said it has organized air and naval forces to follow the Richmond and warn it.
“This kind of behavior harbors evil intentions and damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” it said. “Theatre command forces always maintain a high level of alert and resolutely counter all threats and provocations. “
Relations between Beijing and London are already strained over a long list of issues, from trade to human rights.
In Taipei, defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng did not comment directly when asked about the British warship, saying he did not know what missions foreign ships in the Taiwan Strait were carrying out.
“When they pass through the Taiwan Strait our nation’s military will have a grasp of the situation, but will not interfere,” he told reporters, adding they keep a close watch on all movements near Chinese Taipei.
China has been ramping up its exercises around the island and flies air force aircraft almost daily into the southwestern part of what Chinese Taipei describes as its air defense zone.
Encouraged by the West’s provocative moves, Chinese Taipei said on Monday it was in need of long-range weapons to confront China.
“The development of equipment must be long-range, precise, and mobile, so that the enemy can sense that we are prepared as soon as they dispatch their troops,” Defense minister Chiu told parliamentarians.
Chiu revealed that Taipei’s military forces were using both medium- and long-range missiles in intercept drills at a key test site on the southeastern coast.
In their annual report on the Chinese military, Taipei’s commanders admitted that Beijing’s forces could “paralyze” the island’s military, noting that Beijing monitored all their military movements.