China’s foreign ministry says it’s planning a response in protest of a U.S. Navy admiral’s reported trip to Taiwan.
“The Chinese side will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response,” said Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, as reported by Reuters.
Reuters reported over the weekend that Rear Adm. Michael Studeman, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s intelligence directorate, went to Taiwan for an undisclosed trip.
The Defense Department declined to comment on the visit and China’s potential response in a statement to USNI News.
The trip comes as the U.S. relationship with China has become increasingly strained this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s more critical rhetoric of Beijing.
President Donald Trump, when president-elect in 2016, phoned Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, a move that upended years of U.S. policy toward Taipei.
Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told USNI News that active-duty officers at the two-star level have previously gone to Taiwan.
“[I]t’s my understanding that active-duty, two-star officers have traveled to Taiwan before. So there is a precedent. However, the goal on both sides has been to keep these military-to-military exchanges discrete so they can continue on a regularized basis,” Sayers said.
“It is unfortunate this one leaked out. Visits of this type are consistent with long-standing US policy and are critical to ensuring our two militaries remain closely aligned to deter Chinese coercion.”
Meanwhile, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) on Saturday performed a transit through the Taiwan Strait, the Navy said in a statement.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” reads the statement from U.S. 7th Fleet. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”