The Chinese military has condemned the UK Navy after it engaged in what Beijing officials described as a “malicious” sail through the Taiwan Strait that “undermined” its “peace and stability.”

The HMS ‘Richmond’, a frigate deployed as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group, containing aircraft carrier HMS ‘Queen Elizabeth’, tweeted on Monday that it was “en route through the Taiwan Strait,” as it headed to Vietnam, marking the first time since 2019 that a British vessel has sailed through the waterway.

After a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea, we are now en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit #Vietnam and the Vietnam People’s Navy. #CSG21 International by design

The military maneuver comes after a “busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea,” according to the team on the ‘Richmond’, as the UK seeks to bolster its commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

China, however, blasted the UK’s activity in a statement released by the Beijing military, calling the Royal Navy’s behavior “malicious” and saying it “undermined the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.” 

The spokesperson of the Eastern Theater Command, Colonel Shi Yi, warned that Chinese troops were on alert.

The ‘Queen Elizabeth’ is making her maiden operational voyage to the Indo-Pacific region, where senior Royal Navy Admiral Tony Radakin confirmed that the UK will station vessel for “at least the next five years” to make it “very clear that the Taiwan Strait is international waters.”

The last time a British naval ship traveled through the Taiwan Strait was in 2019 when a survey vessel journeyed through the area. The United States has been more active in the region, with the US Navy making nine passages through the Taiwan Strait this year alone, compared with 13 during 2020. Allies of the UK and US, including Australia, Canada and France, have also sent their navies into the area in the past few years.

The region has become a contested section of water as Japan and its Western allies seek to counter what they see as China’s expansionist activity in the area, where Beijing has laid claim to the East and South China Seas.

China has repeatedly rejected this narrative, claiming it has territorial rights to the area and warning that Western nations should not “play with fire” or risk “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” by engaging in military activity in the region.

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