A US warship sailed through the waters separating Taiwan and mainland China, the US Navy said, days after Beijing staged war games around the self-ruled island.
Led by the United States, multiple Western navies regularly conduct “freedom of navigation operations” to assert the international status of regional waterways such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
The USS Milius guided-missile destroyer “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 16 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”, the US Navy said in a statement.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State.” This was the first such US operation through the waterway since January.
The US 7th Fleet shared images Monday on Twitter of crew looking out into the strait, one of the most crucial waterways in the world for international shipping.
China said on Monday it had tracked a US warship through the Taiwan Strait, adding that the United States had “hyped up” the transit.
Colonel Shi Yi, a Chinese military spokesman, said troops in the area “remain on a high level of alert at all times and will resolutely defend national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability”.
China claims Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to bring the island under its control one day. It also claims the entire Taiwan Strait as its territorial waters.
China launched three days of military exercises around Taiwan on April 8, simulating targeted strikes and a blockade of the island.
The drills were in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent visit to the United States, where she met with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.
“The Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese PLA fully monitored the US warship’s passing operations, maintaining a high-level alert at all times and resolutely defending national sovereignty and security,” a spokesperson said via the Global Times.
Beijing bristles at any official contact between Taipei and foreign governments. On the final day of last week’s drills, Taiwan’s defence ministry said 54 Chinese planes crossed into Taiwan’s southwestern and southeastern air defence identification zone (ADIZ) — the highest recorded in a single day since October 2021.
That same day, the USS Milius sailed through waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea.
That deployment triggered condemnation from China, which said the vessel had “illegally intruded” into its territorial waters.
Since the war games ended, Chinese warships and aircraft have continued to circle Taiwan.
On Monday, Taipei’s defence ministry said it had detected four warships and 18 aircraft, four of which had crossed its southwestern ADIZ.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon sailed through the Taiwan Strait on January 5, months after McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi visited the island.
Pelosi’s trip sparked China’s largest-ever war games around Taiwan.
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