MANILA / TAIPEI, February 26 (Reuters): A U.S. warship sailed through sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday, part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which China described as “provocative.”
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said Arleigh Burke’s guided missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson completed a “routine” transit through international waters.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” 7th Fleet spokesman Nicholas Lingo said in a statement.
“The U.S. military flies, sails and operates wherever international law allows.”
The Eastern Theater Command of China’s Liberation Army monitored the passage, which a spokesman in a statement called a “provocative act.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said the ship was sailing northward through the strait, that its forces had monitored its passage and observed nothing out of the ordinary.
Taiwan is currently in a state of emergency due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nervous that China may try to take advantage of the situation to take a step on the island, even though the government has not reported any unusual Chinese maneuvers.
Last year, U.S. Navy ships sailed through the strait about monthly. Saturday’s sailing was the first since November.
China claims that democratically controlled Taiwan is its own territory and has conducted repeated air force missions in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the past two years, which has provoked anger in Taipei.
Beijing calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in its relationship with Washington.
Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is its main international supporter and arms supplier. – Reuters