Seoul, South Korea
Two US Navy warships entered the Taiwan Strait in what is the first US naval transit of the waterway since US-China tensions rose this month during a visit to the island of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville guided-missile cruisers were making the trip Sunday “through waters where the freedoms of navigation and overflight on the high seas apply in accordance with international law,” the U.S. 7th Fleet in Japan said in a statement. .
He said the transit was “ongoing” and that there had been “no interference from foreign military forces so far”.
“These ships (transit) through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. The transit of ships through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US military flies, sails and operates wherever international law permits,” he said.
The strait is a 110-mile (180 kilometer) stretch of water that separates the Democratic Self-Governing Island of Taiwan from mainland China.
Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan despite the ruling Chinese Communist Party having never controlled the island – and considers the strait to be part of its “internal waters”.
The US Navy, however, says most of the strait is in international waters.
The Navy cites an international law that defines territorial waters as extending 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from a country’s coastline and routinely sends its warships to the strait as part of what it calls freedom of navigation operations, including recent voyages by the USS Benfold guided missile destroyer and the USS Port Royal.
These transits drew angry reactions from Beijing.
“The frequent provocations and parades by the United States fully demonstrate that the United States is the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the creator of security risks in the Taiwan Strait,” the official said. Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army. Eastern Theater Command, said after transiting the Benfold on July 19.
Beijing has stepped up military maneuvers in the strait – and the skies above – following Pelosi’s visit to the island earlier this month.
Minutes after Pelosi landed in Taiwan on August 2, the PLA announced four days of military exercises in six areas surrounding the island.
The maneuvers included launching ballistic missiles into the waters around Taiwan, scores of Chinese warships sailing through the Taiwan Straits and dozens of PLA warplanes crossing the center line – the halfway point. between mainland China and Taiwan that Beijing says it does not recognize but has largely respected.
Since the drills officially ended, PLA fighter jets have continued to cross the median line daily, usually in double-digit numbers, according to Taiwan Defense Ministry statistics. From Aug. 8, the last of four days of exercises announced the night Pelosi landed in Taiwan, until Aug. 22, between five and 21 PLA planes crossed the median line each day.
In July, the month before Pelosi’s trip, Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line only once, along with an unknown number of jets, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
Additionally, Taiwan reports that between five and 14 PLA warships have been seen in the waters surrounding Taiwan.
PLA exercises continued this week, in what is normally a busy season for Chinese exercises.
China’s Eastern Theater Command said on Friday it had conducted “joint combat readiness security patrols and combat training exercises involving troops from multiple services and arms in waters and airspace.” around Taiwan.
The announcement came after U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, became the last member of Congress to visit Taiwan defying pressure from Beijing, saying, “I will not be bullied by Communist China into turning its back on the island.”
In tweets Friday morning, the US senator, who does not represent the Biden administration, reiterated her support for Taiwan.
“I will never bow down to the Chinese Communist Party,” she said in one. “I will continue to support the (Taiwanese) and their right to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping doesn’t scare me,” she added later, referring to the Chinese leader.
Nicholas Burns, the US ambassador to China, told CNN last week that Beijing’s response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “an overreaction”.
“We don’t believe there should be a crisis in US-China relations because of the visit – the peaceful visit – of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to Taiwan…it was a crisis fabricated by the government in Beijing “Burns said in a statement. US Embassy interview.
It is now up to “the government here in Beijing to convince the rest of the world that it will act peacefully in the future,” the ambassador said.
“I think the world is very concerned that China has become an agent of instability in the Taiwan Strait and it’s not in anyone’s interest,” he said.
Other US officials had said Washington would not change the way the US military operates in the region.
“We will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law permits, consistent with our long-standing commitment to freedom of navigation, and this includes conducting standard air and sea transits across the Strait of Taiwan in the coming weeks,” Kurt Campbell, U.S. President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, told reporters at the White House on August 12.
China’s ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, said last week that US transits were only heightening tensions.
“I call on my American colleagues to show restraint, not to do anything to escalate the tension,” Qin told reporters in Washington. “If there is a move that undermines China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, China will react.”