Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Russia and China warn US Navy to steer clear as warships near both ‘backyards’

Moscow and Beijing are separately accusing Washington of provocative behaviour over Ukraine and Taiwan.

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Russia on Tuesday warned the US to keep its warships well away from Crimea “for their own good”, calling their deployment to the Black Sea a provocation.

Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and two US warships are due to arrive in the Black Sea this week amid an escalation in fighting in eastern Ukraine where government forces have battled Russian-backed troops in a conflict Kyiv says has killed thousands.

The US Navy deployment comes as the West sounds the alarm over what it says is large, unexplained build-up of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s eastern border. Russia says it moves its forces around as it sees fit, Reuters is reporting.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited by Russian news agencies on Tuesday as saying the risk of unspecified incidents with US warships was very high.

“There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores, this is purely a provocative action. They are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They will not succeed,” Ryabkov was cited as saying.

The Pentagon has declined to discuss the ships’ deployment, saying only that the US Navy routinely sends vessels to the region.

Meanwhile, China is also warning the US to stay away from interfering in its “domestic” affairs.

On Friday, the US State Department elected to deepen diplomatic ties with officials in Taipei by “liberalising guidance on contacts with Taiwan”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has lodged “stern representations” with Washington and called on the US not to send the wrong message about Taiwanese independence by further diplomatic relations with Taipei.

Speaking on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned Washington against continuing and enhancing its diplomatic relations with Taipei.

China urged the US “not to play with fire on the Taiwan issue, and immediately stop any form of US-Taiwan official contacts”.

Zhao claimed the US decision to give its diplomats more freedom to meet with Taiwanese officials would harm Washington’s relations with Beijing.

He demanded Washington stop “sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-US relations”.

China has repeatedly called on Washington to steer clear of Beijing’s internal affairs, including issues relating to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.

On Monday, Taiwan accused the Chinese People’s Liberation Army of its largest incursion of the nation’s air defence zone with jets and nuclear-capable bombers buzzing its airspace, while last week, a US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, much to Beijing’s anger.

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