Voyage demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific: Navy
A U.S. warship sailed through the strait separating Taiwan and China on Tuesday, the Navy said, the first such passage since leaders from the two rival superpowers held a video summit.
The passage through the Taiwan Strait by the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Milius was a routine transit, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.
The voyage, the 11th declared freedom of navigation exercise of the year, “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said in a statement.
The latest transit came after U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping traded strong warnings on the future of Taiwan at a virtual summit earlier this month.
Chinese state media reported after the summit that Mr. Xi cautioned Mr. Biden that encouraging Taiwanese independence would be “playing with fire”.
U.S. warships periodically conduct freedom of navigation sailings through the strait, often triggering angry responses from Beijing, which claims Taiwan and the surrounding waters as its own territory.
The United States and many other countries view the route as international waters open to all.
A growing number of U.S. allies have transited the route as Beijing intensifies its military threats towards Taiwan and solidifies its control over the disputed South China Sea.
British, Canadian, French and Australian warships have all made passages through the Taiwan Strait in recent years, sparking protests from Beijing.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian slammed the latest transit as a “deliberate attempt to disrupt and undermine regional peace and stability”.
“The U.S. should immediately correct its mistake, stop stirring up trouble, crossing the line and playing with fire,” he warned.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, keeps a database of declared U.S. transits through the Taiwan Strait.
Mr. Koh said western navies see the transits “as routine passage in the exercise of high seas freedoms and rights through the waterway”. “These days, these transits are routinised and publicised simply to emphasise the above mentioned established facts of how maritime user states exercise such freedoms and rights
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