US warships sail through Taiwan Strait for first time since Pelosi visit

China’s military says it is monitoring the US ships, maintaining a high alert and ready to defeat any provocations

The US Navy said two warships were sailing through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, in the first such operation since heightened tensions with China over the Taiwan visit of the US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

The guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville were conducting a “routine Taiwan Strait transit”, the US 7th fleet said in a statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said. “The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.”

US warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have routinely sailed through the strait in recent years, drawing Beijing’s anger.

China’s military said on Sunday it was monitoring the US vessels sailing through the Taiwan Strait, maintaining a high alert and ready to defeat any provocations.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking on CNN on Sunday, said the transit sent a “very clear message, very consistent message ... that the United States Navy, the United States military will sail, fly and operate wherever international law permits us to do so.”

Kirby also noted the transit was “very consistent with our One China’ policy, very consistent with our desire to make sure that we can continue to work toward a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, launched military drills near the island after Pelosi visited in early August and those exercises have continued.

Her trip infuriated Beijing, which saw it as a US attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

US Navy operations in the Taiwan Strait usually take between eight and 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.

The narrow 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.

Pelosi’s visit was followed about a week later by a group of five other US lawmakers, with China’s military responding by carrying out more exercises near Taiwan.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, who is on the Senate commerce and armed services committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday on the third visit by a US dignitary this month, defying pressure from Beijing to halt the trips.

The Biden administration has sought to keep tensions between Washington and Beijing from boiling over into conflict, reiterating that such congressional trips are routine.

The US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

Reuters contributed to this report

Guardian staff and agencies

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