UNITED STATES/TAIWAN: Two US Navy warships sailed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such operation since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan angered China, which claims the island as its territory.
The US Navy, confirming the Reuters report, said the cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were conducting the ongoing operation. Such operations typically take eight to 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.
In recent years, US warships and occasionally ships from allied countries such as Britain and Canada have routinely passed through the strait, drawing the ire of China, which claims Taiwan over the objections of its democratically elected government.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan in early August infuriated China, which saw it as an attempt by the US to interfere in its internal affairs. China subsequently began military exercises near the island, which have continued ever since.
“These (US) ships were sailing through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” the US Navy said.
The operation demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the U.S. military flies, sails and operates wherever international law allows, the Navy said.
The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said it was tracking the ships and warning them.
“Soldiers in theatre remain on high alert and are ready to thwart any provocation at any time,” the statement added.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said the ships were sailing in a southerly direction and that their forces were observing, but that “the situation was as normal”.
The narrow Taiwan Strait has been the usual source of military tension ever since. It goes back to the time when the defeated government of the Republic of China fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists who founded the People’s Republic of China.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was followed about a week later by a group of five other US lawmakers, with the Chinese military responding by conducting more exercises near the island.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a U.S. member of the Senate Commerce and Armed Services Committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for the third visit by a U.S. official this month, defying pressure from China to freeze the trips.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to keep tensions between Washington and Beijing from escalating into conflict, reiterating that trips to Congress are routine.
Taiwan says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and thus has no claim to it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million residents can decide its future.