This is the first time since the Pelosi visit that the United States has sent warships through the Taiwan Strait.
Two United States Navy warships have entered the Taiwan Strait in what is the first US military transit in the waterway since US-China tensions flared this month over a visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville were on Sunday conducting the mission “through waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in line with international law,” the US 7th Fleet in Japan said in a statement.
It stated the passage was “ongoing” and that there had been “no intervention from foreign military troops thus far.”
“These ships (are travelling) through a passage in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. The ships’ voyage through the Taiwan Strait underlines the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” it stated.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Sunday that the two US Navy warships transiting the Taiwan Strait sent a “very clear” and “very consistent” message that “the United States military will sail, fly and operate wherever international law permits us to do so.”
Taiwan, an autonomous island territory, is politically and geographically distinct from mainland China across a sea that is 110 miles (180 kilometers) in width.
Despite the fact that the Communist Party of China has never held power on Taiwan, Beijing claims sovereignty over the island and includes the Taiwan Strait as part of China’s “internal seas.” But according to the US Navy, much of the strait is international territory.
The Navy cites an international law that defines territorial waters as extending 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from a country’s coastline and regularly sends its warships through the strait in what it calls freedom of navigation operations, including recent voyages by the guided missile destroyers USS Benfold and USS Port Royal.