Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Newton said the Chinese maneuver in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, in which a Chinese navy ship cut sharply across the path of an American destroyer, was a sign China is trying to let America know they have a bigger presence in the region.
“They’ve (China) arrived on the scene,” said Newton. “They want to replace us as the sole superpower.”
China claims the democratic self-governing island of Taiwan as part of its own territory, and maintains the strait is part of its exclusive economic zone, while the U.S. and its allies regularly sail through and fly over the passage to emphasize their contention that the waters are international.
Newton said that while the ongoing war in Ukraine deserves the attention of the U.S., he believes China may be taking advantage of America’s split focus.
“China is taking every opportunity they can while we — perhaps — have got our eye off the ball in the India-Pacific region,” said Newton. “They’re willing to do some of these provocations and so forth. That’s why we have to be as nimble and as flexible as capable.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin defended the weekend maneuver, saying it was undertaken “in accordance with the law.”
“China’s military actions are completely justified, lawful, safe and professional,” he told reporters in Beijing. “It is the U.S. that should deeply reflect upon itself and correct the wrongdoings.”
The U.S. recently accused China of also performing an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” in the air, saying a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month flew directly in front of the nose of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.