China sailing a warship across the path of a US destroyer and Canadian frigate transiting the Taiwan Strait was an act of provocation, which also violated international sailing norms, Taiwan defense experts said yesterday.
The incident highlighted that China considers the Taiwan Strait a domestic waterway, and it was an attempt to demonstrate its military hegemony, they said.
They were referring to a Chinese vessel cutting in front of the USS Chung-Hoon, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, as it conducted a joint mission with the HMCS Montreal in the Strait on Saturday.
Photo: Screen grab from US Navy 7th Fleet’s Web site
A video captured by Canadian network Global News onboard the Canadian frigate showed that the Chinese warship came within about 137m of the US destroyer.
Crew on the Canadian vessel contacted the Chung-Hoon after seeing the Chinese vessel alter its course and told the US ship to move to avoid a collision, Global News said.
The US destroyer responded by asking the Chinese warship to steer clear of the ship, but it ultimately needed to change course and decelerate, it said.
Captain Paul Mountford, commander of the HMCS Montreal, told the Vancouver-based broadcaster that it was “not professional” for the Chinese warship to cut in front of the Chung-Hoon, adding that the incident was “clearly instigated by the Chinese.”
“The fact this was announced over the radio prior to doing it clearly indicated this was intentional,” Mountford was quoted as saying.
Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former lieutenant commander in the Taiwanese navy, yesterday wrote on Facebook that the Chinese guided-missile frigate had an obvious close encounter with the US destroyer, rather than an attempt to overtake it.
The 1972 International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea stipulate that the Chinese frigate should have yielded and avoided the US vessel, he said.
“Apparently, the actions of the 056A missile frigate were a clear warning to the US destroyer passing through the Taiwan Strait,” he added.
According to the regulations, if a ship spots another vessel approaching on a collision course from its starboard side, it should yield and avoid the vessel.
Should the situation permit it, the ship should avoid crossing the bow of the other ship, the regulations say.
In a paper published last year, titled “Exploring and Analyzing the Weaknesses of China’s Coastal Defense From the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Summer Military Exercises,” Lu said that the Chinese military’s near-shore defense strategy has advanced from “strengthening near-shore air defense” in 2020 to “preventing enemy from breaking through at low altitude, deterring approaching reconnaissance.”
“Judging from the state of the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party’s] exercises and real-time imagery intelligence, the PLA has extended significantly beyond its territorial waters, touching the sea and airspace under the US military’s air and sea ‘approaching reconnaissance,’” Lu said in the paper.
“This inference was first confirmed when China’s J-16 fighter intercepted the US military RC-135 military plane on May 26, and it was confirmed again when the Chinese warship crossed the bow of the US destroyer on Saturday,” Lu said yesterday.
Additional reporting by Chen Yu-fu
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