(CNN) – Two U.S. Navy warships entered the Taiwan Strait, the first U.S. naval transit through the waterway since tensions between the U.S. and China escalated this month following a visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The guided-missile ships USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville sailed on Sunday, “in compliance with international law of freedom of navigation on the high seas and overflight,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. Japan in a statement.
He said traffic was “continuing” and “so far there has been no interference by foreign military forces”.
“These ships (are in transit) through a corridor in the strait of the territorial sea of any coastal state. The passage of ships through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US military flies, travels and operates anywhere international law allows,” he said. said.
The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said it was monitoring the two ships, was on high alert and was “ready to counter any provocation”.
The strait is a 180-kilometer stretch of water that separates the autonomous democratic island of Taiwan from mainland China.
Although China’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled the island, Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and considers the strait part of its “internal waters.”
However, the US Navy says most of the strait is in international waters.
The navy cites international law that defines territorial waters 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from a country’s coast and routinely sends its warships through the strait under what it calls freedom of navigation operations. USS Penfold guided missile and USS Port Royal.
Those transfers drew angry responses from Beijing.
“The US’s frequent provocations and boasts fully prove that it is the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the creator of security risks in the Taiwan Strait,” said Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater. Command after the Penfold transport on 19 July.
Following Pelosi’s visit to the island earlier this month, Beijing has stepped up military exercises in the strait and in the skies above it.
Minutes after Pelosi landed in Taiwan on August 2, the PLA announced four days of military exercises in six areas around the island.
These maneuvers included launching missiles into the waters around Taiwan, several Chinese warships sailing through the Taiwan Strait, and dozens of People’s Liberation Army warplanes flying over the demarcation line. respected.
Since those exercises officially ended, PLA fighter jets have crossed the line on average every day, usually in double digits, according to Taiwan Defense Ministry statistics. From August 8, the night of Pelosi’s landing in Taiwan, four days of exercises were announced, until August 22, an average of five to 21 PLA flights crossed the line each day.
In July, the month before Pelosi’s trip, Chinese fighter jets crossed the median once with an unspecified number of planes, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
Additionally, Taiwan reports that five to 14 PLA warships have been spotted in the waters around Taiwan.
PLA exercises continued this week, which is usually part of the peak season for Chinese exercises.
China’s Eastern Theater Command said Friday it conducted “joint combat readiness security patrols and combat training exercises with multi-service troops and weapons” around Taiwan.
US Senate. The announcement came after Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Member of Congress for Taiwan Defying pressure from Beijing, he said, “I will not be intimidated by Communist China and retreat to the island.”
In tweets Friday morning, the U.S. senator, who does not represent the Biden administration, reiterated his support for Taiwan.
“I will never bow to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said in one. “I will continue to support (Taiwan) and their right to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping does not scare me,” he later said, referring to China’s leader.
US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns told CNN last week that Beijing’s response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was an “overreaction.”
“We don’t think there should be a crisis in U.S.-China relations because of the visit of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to Taiwan, a peaceful visit … It’s a government-created crisis in Beijing,” Burns said in an interview with the U.S. Embassy.
Now “it is up to the government in Beijing to convince the rest of the world that it will act peacefully in the future,” the ambassador said.
“I think there’s a lot of concern around the world that China has now become an agent of destabilization in the Taiwan Strait, and that’s in nobody’s interest,” he said.
Other US officials have said Washington will not change the way the US military operates in the region.
“We will continue to fly, navigate and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation, including conducting stable air and sea traffic through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks,” he said. Campbell, US President Joe Biden’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, told reporters at the White House on August 12.
China’s ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, said last week that the U.S. transit was raising tensions.
“I call on my American colleagues to exercise restraint and not do anything to increase tensions,” Qin told reporters in Washington. “If there is any move that damages China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, China will respond.”
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