International

U.S. warships sail through Taiwan Strait

This US Navy photo obtained October 23, 2018 shows the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54)as it pulls in to port at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy base in Jeju, South Korea on October 12, 2018.

This US Navy photo obtained October 23, 2018 shows the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54)as it pulls in to port at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy base in Jeju, South Korea on October 12, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AFP

China said on Tuesday that it has expressed concern to the U.S. over what it considered an affront to its sovereignty after two U.S. warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

The move adds to increasingly fraught relations between the two countries, which have clashed over a number of issues, including trade, Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Monday was the second time in the space of three months that American warships had conducted so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises in the Taiwan Strait, a 180-km wide stretch of water separating the Chinese mainland and the self-ruled island.

Beijing “expressed its concern to the U.S. side” as “the Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.

China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949.

Colonel Rob Manning from the U.S. Department of Defense told reporters that the USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam conducted a routine transit to demonstrate U.S. commitment “to a free and open Indo-Pacific”. Multiple Chinese warships shadowed the two U.S. vessels during the transit, following at a safe distance, American defence officials told CNN.

Washington remains Taiwan’s most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

The Trump administration has sought closer ties to the island, announcing plans last month to sell it $330 million spare parts for several aircraft including the F-16 fighter and the C-130 cargo plane.

Taiwan’s Premier William Lai said during a parliamentary session on Tuesday that Taiwan respected the U.S. right of passage in international waters and recognised “the various efforts of the U.S. in maintaining peace in the Asia-Pacific Region”.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry had said in an earlier statement that the military was “closely monitoring the U.S. warships during their passage”.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 9:43:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-warships-sail-through-taiwan-strait/article25302889.ece

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