The U.S. Navy sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, marking the first U.S. transit of the waterway since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island earlier this month. China responded by placing its military on “high alert.”
On Sunday, the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet announced the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) sailed through the waterway separating Taiwan from mainland China. The Navy characterized the transit as a routine operation in sea regions where “freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law.”
“These ships transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao characterized the latest U.S. freedom of navigation operation as “provocation aimed at ‘freedom of trespassing.'”
Zhao said the latest U.S. move in the Taiwan Strait “constitutes deliberate sabotage of regional peace and stability.”
“China once again urges the US side to stop fudging, hollowing out and distorting the one-China principle, observe basic norms in international relations including respecting other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference in their internal affairs, earnestly abide by the one-China principle and stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués,” Zhao said. “And stop being a trouble maker for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said the U.S. side “hyped” the latest Taiwan Strait transit. In response to the U.S. transit, he said the Chinese side “conducted security tracking and monitoring of the U.S. warships’ passage in the whole course, and had all movements of the two U.S. warships under control.”
“The troops of the PLA Eastern Theatre Command always stay on high alert and get ready to thwart any provocation,” the PLA official added.
The U.S. Navy routinely conducts transits through the Taiwan Strait in what it refers to as freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs).
Though Taiwan governs itself as a de facto independent nation, China considers the island a part of its territory.
Since 1979, the U.S. has recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legal government of China through the “One-China” principle. The U.S. also maintains a position of strategic ambiguity over whether it will intervene on Taiwan’s behalf if mainland China invades.
This latest transit comes just weeks after Pelosi visited Taiwan on Aug. 2, sparking outrage in China.
Multiple Chinese officials called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a violation of Chinese sovereignty. China further responded to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit by holding military live-fire drills all around the island for several days.