China yesterday said it has complained to France after a French warship entered Chinese territorial waters while passing through the Taiwan Strait this month.
In a related development, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua blamed British activity in the South China Sea for a downturn in relations in comments at the start of a meeting with British treasury chief Philip Hammond.
The complaint and Hu’s comments appear to illustrate how China is now willing to permit assertions of its territorial claims to affect ties with nations from outside the region.
The April 7 incident in the Taiwan Strait marks a rare case of military friction between the two countries, which have held joint search and rescue exercises before.
Ren said the navy dispatched ships to identify, warn and escort the French ship and would remain “highly alert to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.”
It was not immediately clear whether France had responded to the Chinese complaint.
The 160-kilometer – wide Taiwan Strait divides mainland China from Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. It is considered an international waterway heavily trafficked by ships from all nations, many of them bound for Chinese ports.
However, China is highly sensitive to operations by foreign warships near areas it claims, such as the South China Sea, where it has built military installations atop seven man-made islands. AP