Two US warships sailed through the disputed Taiwan Strait on Sunday.
It comes just weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her controversial visit to Taiwan despite warnings from China, raising tensions between Beijing, the US, and Taipei. She was the most senior US leader to visit the island in more than 25 years.
Announcing the operation, the US Navy released a statement saying the guided missile cruisers, the USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, sailed through the strait in a “routine” transit.
The Navy added, “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The Chinese military released a statement saying it had monitored the ship’s passage and remained “on high alert, ready to thwart any provocation.”
China has previously warned the United States against sailing warships in the Taiwan Strait and said it would respond if it felt sovereignty was threatened.
China claims to enjoy sovereignty and jurisdiction over the strait and regards the 110-mile wide waterway separating Taiwan from the Asian mainland as “internal territorial waters” instead of being international waters,
On August 5, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced, “We will conduct standard air and maritime transits through the strait in the next few weeks, consistent, again, with our longstanding approach to defending the freedom of the seas and international law.”
His comments followed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which resulted in China performing provocative military exercises near Taiwan, which included launching missiles into nearby waters.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and takes issue with any foreign support for Taipei.
On Sunday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had detected 23 Chinese aircraft and eight ships on maneuvers around the island state.
Among the detected aircraft, seven crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait – an unofficial barrier between Taiwan and China, reported the BBC.
Bethany Dawson is a junior news reporter on the UK news team based in London at Insider, where this first appeared. She holds a BSc in Politics and Sociology and was previously a freelance journalist for publications such as The Independent, the BBC, The Times, VICE, Refinery29, Private Eye, The Big Issue and more.