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U.S. Warships Transit Taiwan Strait, First Since Pelosi Visit

Two U.S. Navy warships transited the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such operation since a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enraged China which regards the island as its territory.

The U.S. Navy said cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the ongoing operation. Such operations usually take eight to 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by China’s military.

U.S. warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have routinely transited through the strait, drawing the ire of China which claims Taiwan as its own.

Pelosi’s Taiwan trip in early August infuriated China which saw it as a U.S. attempt to interfere in its internal affairs. China subsequently launched military drills near the island which have since continued.

“These (U.S.) ships transited the Taiwan strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” the U.S. Navy said.

The operation demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the U.S. military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows, the navy said.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said it was following the ships and warning them.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the ships were sailing in a southerly direction and that its forces were observing but that “the situation was as normal”.

The narrow transit through the Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a U.S. lawmaker on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday on the third visit by a U.S. dignitary this month, defying pressure from China to halt the trips.

U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to lower the tension between Washington and Beijing, reiterating that congressional trips are routine.

The U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. China has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its domain.

Taiwan says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no claim to it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million people can decide their future.

Credit Reuters

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