EXCLUSIVE US warships making Taiwan Strait crossing, first since Pelosi’s visit – officials

The flags of Taiwan and the United States are placed for a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Two U.S. Navy warships are navigating international waters in the Taiwan Strait, three U.S. officials told Reuters, the first such operation since rising tensions with China over a US President Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

In recent years, US warships, and sometimes those from allied countries such as Britain and Canada, have regularly sailed through the strait, drawing the ire of Beijing.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory against the objections of the democratically elected government in Taipei, launched military drills near the island after Pelosi’s visit in early August, and those drills have continued.

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

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday that the US Navy cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the operation which was still ongoing.

These operations usually take between eight and 12 hours and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.

The narrow 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 .

Pelosi was followed about a week later by a group of five other US lawmakers, as the Chinese military responded by carrying out further exercises near Taiwan.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a U.S. lawmaker on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services Committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday in the third visit by a U.S. dignitary this month, defying pressure from Beijing to halt travel.

The Biden administration has sought to prevent tension between Washington and Beijing, inflamed by the visits, from escalating into conflict, reiterating that such trips to Congress are routine.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is required 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 therefore has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their future.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Idrees Ali

Thomson Reuters

National Security Correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington DC Reports on US military activity and operations around the world and the impact they are having. Reported from over two dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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