A U.S. warship and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, the latest in what Washington calls routine operations through the sensitive waterway that separates Taiwan from China, which claims the self-ruled island.
The passage comes amid a spike in military tensions in the past two years between Taiwan and China, and follows Chinese assault drills last week, with warships and fighter jets exercising off the island’s southwest and southeast.
The Kidd, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, accompanied by the Coast Guard cutter Munro, transited “through international waters in accordance with international law,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement.
“The ships’ lawful transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” it said.
The U.S. Navy has been conducting such operations about every month or so, angering China, which sees Taiwan as its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its control.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is its most important international backer and a major seller of arms to the island.
China’s state-controlled media have seized on the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in recent weeks to portray U.S. support for Taiwan and regional allies as fickle.
But U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been quick to dismiss any connection between Afghanistan and the United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific.
Vice President Kamala Harris accused China of “bullying and excessive maritime claims” during trips to Vietnam and Singapore this week, the latest in a string of visits by top U.S. officials to the Indo-Pacific aimed at cementing U.S. commitment to the region.
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