China strongly condemned Monday the passage of a British frigate through the Taiwan Strait as the U.K. looks to bolster its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Richmond unusually broadcast its location while sailing through the sensitive strait on its way to Vietnam.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command said in a statement that military units have been dispatched “to follow and monitor the voyage.”
Senior Col. Shi Yi, spokesman of the command, was quoted by the state-run China Daily as saying that the United Kingdom is “carrying out a meaningless display of presence with an insidious intention.”
He added that the action “has damaged peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and exposed the U.K.’s opportunistic attitude.”
“The theater command will remain on high alert and would adamantly take actions in response to any acts of threats and provocations,” Shi said.
China has been conducting exercises around Taiwan and Chinese military aircraft are making regular incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Beijing insists Taiwan is a province of China and has refused to rule out using military force to unify it with the communist mainland. Taiwan, a democracy, operates as a self-governing state.
The HMS Richmond, part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group, announced on Twitter on Monday that it was on its way to visit Vietnam and the Vietnamese Navy “after a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea.”
The publicly announced passage is seen as a deliberate act to confirm that the Taiwan Strait is international waters and part of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The HMS Richmond broadcast a signal from its automatic identification system, which warships usually refrain from doing.
The Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier made its first port call in Japan earlier this month following exercises with Japanese and U.S. partners in August.
The Royal Navy has also deployed two patrol vessels to the Indo-Pacific on a five-year mission to bolster Britain’s presence in the region.