Two US Navy warships sailed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such operation since a visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosiinfuriated China, which considers the island its territory.
The US Navy, confirming a report by the Reuters, said cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the ongoing operation. These moves typically take eight to 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by China’s military.
In recent years, warships from the US and occasionally from allied nations such as Britain and Canada have routinely sailed through the strait, drawing the ire of China, which claims Taiwan.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in early August infuriated China, which saw the move as an attempt by the US to interfere in its internal affairs. China subsequently launched military exercises near the island, which have continued ever since.
“These (US) ships transited a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” the US Navy said.
The operation demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the country’s military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows, the Navy said.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, echoed this position on CNN, saying the ships’ passage was “very consistent” with the US’ “one China” policy and seeking “an Indo-Pacific”. free and open”.
Kirby added that the operation was planned a long time ago.
The Chinese military unit responsible for the area adjacent to Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, said it was following the ships and warning them.
“Theatre troops remain on high alert and are ready to thwart any provocation at any time,” it said in a statement.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the ships were sailing south and its forces were watching them, but that “the situation was normal”.
The Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.
Taiwan says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and therefore has no right to it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million people can decide its future.
Copyright © Thomson Reuters.