China’s defense ministry urges US to restrain frontline forces in nearby seas

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The Chinese defense ministry urged the United States on Thursday to rein in its frontline forces which Beijing has said have become more active in the air and seas near China this year.

China has frequently maintained that a US military presence in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait is the main destabilizing factor in the region. The United States has said it has freedom of navigation in these areas, which China regards as its geo-strategic backyard.

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Since US President Joe Biden took office in January, operations of US warships in the seas around China have risen by 20 percent, while the activity of US reconnaissance aircraft has risen by 40 percent compared with last year, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a press briefing on Thursday.

“We urge the US side to strictly restrain its frontline forces, abide by regulations including the Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters and International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, and prevent similar dangerous incidents from happening again,” Wu said.

The US Navy earlier this month took the rare step of publishing a photo on its main website of a US guided missile destroyer, the USS Mustin, watching China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier carry out an exercise.

Wu said the USS Mustin had interfered with the Chinese exercise and threatened the freedom of navigation of both vessels and the safety of their crews.

He said Chinese Navy ships warned away the Mustin and Beijing had lodged a formal complaint to the United States over the matter. “The aircraft carrier is no ‘homebody’. It will routinely train in seas further from its shore.”

Biden has maintained a tough-on-China stance inherited from the Trump administration. That has included more visible support for Taiwan, angering China, which deems the island part of its territory and sees Washington as giving succor to Taiwanese seeking independence, a red line for Beijing.

Citing a $715 billion US defense budget request which the Biden administration has said will be used primarily to meet the challenge of China, Wu said some US officials suffer from “persecutory delusion.” He said “their hype” about an alleged China threat could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Raising the stakes, China’s Navy said for the first time in early April that carrier drills near Taiwan would become routine. Another US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait two days after China’s announcement.

A senior US administration official said in mid-April that regardless of who Beijing’s incursions near Taiwan were aimed at, their effect was direct “intimidation and coercion” of Taipei.

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