The U.S. Navy said two U.S. warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such incursion after China carried out unprecedented military maneuvers around the island.
The navigation comes after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei came as tensions in the Taiwan Strait reached their lowest level in years this month.
In a statement, the Navy said the maneuver “demonstrates America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
After the visit of Pelosi — the third-highest elected official in the US government — China responded with fury and conducted military exercises around the island for several days.
Taiwan – which has an autonomous government and is home to 23 million people – lives under the constant threat of aggression from China, which claims the democratically administered island as part of its territory and vows to one day retake it, including by force if necessary. .
Washington diplomatically recognizes Beijing over Taipei, but maintains de facto ties with Taiwan and supports the island’s right to determine its future.
Beijing, however, considers Taiwan one of its provinces, unable to reunite with the rest of it since the end of the Chinese Civil War (1949).
China’s People’s Liberation Army responded on Sunday and said the US government had “flagrantly exaggerated” the passage of ships through the strait.
China’s military’s Eastern Operations Command has been “monitoring and warning US ships throughout the transit area and is aware of their movements,” said spokesman Col. Shi Yi.
“The troops of the (East) department are on high alert and ready at all times to quell any provocation,” he added.
“Freedom of Navigation and Flight”
The US 7th Fleet said the USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, two Ticonderoga-class ships, conducted “routine” traffic on Sunday “in accordance with international law applicable to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight on the high seas.”
“These vessels pass through a corridor in a strait outside the territorial sea of any country,” the Navy said.
“US armed forces fly, travel and operate anywhere permitted by international law,” it added in a statement.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense confirmed in a statement that the two ships were on a north-south route.
“During the southward passage through the Taiwan Strait, the (Taiwan) armed forces monitored all related movements in our air and sea area. The situation was normal.
Washington has said its position on Taipei remains unchanged and Beijing accuses Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military exercises, a threat to peace in the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese maneuvers include launching ballistic missiles in waters off Taiwan, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Taiwan also organized military exercises to simulate defending against an invasion, with the participation of its main fighter jet.
Threats to Taiwan have intensified under current Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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