WASHINGTON — Military interception maneuvers by Chinese ships and planes suggest a “growing aggressiveness” from Beijing and risk an accident that could result in injury, the White House said Monday.
“It won’t be long before somebody gets hurt,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House. “That’s the concern with these unsafe and unprofessional intercepts. They can lead to misunderstandings, they can lead to miscalculations.”
A Chinese warship crossed the bow of an American warship in the waters of the Taiwan Strait at a distance of around 150 yards, the Pentagon said Saturday. The interception forced the USS Chung-Hoon to take evasive measures. Last month, a Chinese jet crossed the path of a U.S. reconnaissance plane as it was flying through international air space.
Kirby said he believed that the Chinese efforts represented “a statement of some sort of displeasure about our presence” in the region. But, he said, the U.S. would continue sailing and flying in the area.
“The vast majority of international economic trade flows through the Indo-Pacific. We’ve got real needs there and we’re going to stay there,” Kirby said.
The incidents come even as U.S. officials — including Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns – have met recently with Chinese counterparts. But a handshake over the weekend between Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu did not bolster hopes for a thaw in the relationship, with both trading criticism in their subsequent speeches at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a marquee Asia-Pacific security gathering that took place in Singapore on June 2-4.
Kirby on Monday said the U.S. was hopeful that discourse could improve between the two countries. He said the U.S. is making progress in setting up visits to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo but did not have an update on the timing of those trips.