U.S. Navy Sends Two Warships Through the Taiwan Strait

Taiwan protests

Taiwan protests

Two US Navy warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said in a statement Monday.

While a US Pacific Fleet representative claimed that the ship's journey "demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific", Taiwanese officials claimed that the island's defense ministry was in full control of the situation and "has the ability to maintain the security of the seas".

China's foreign ministry has since responded, "expressing concern" at the presence of USA warships in the strait.

"Cruising through the Strait is not new, but it is a strong signal that the US will be on Taiwan's side in case of a crisis between Taipei and Beijing", said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, who teaches US-China relations at Hong Kong Baptist University.

The destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and cruiser USS Antietam were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels as they transited the strait.

"The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere worldwide law allows", he said.

The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15bn in weaponry since 2010.

"The Ministry of National Defense stressed that the army was in full control when the U.S. warships passed through the seas around Taiwan and has the ability to maintain the security of the seas and the airspace to ensure regional peace and stability", the ministry said in a statement. "Taiwan might talk up its asymmetric warfare capabilities, but without the US, Taiwan would be dead".

Monday's exercise took place amid China's increasing pressure on Taiwan in recent months.

This came after the Chinese military conducted large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait in April.

The transit coincides with a period of rising tension between Taiwan and China, which considers the island one of its provinces.

Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, responded to the July passage with a warning to the United States to avoid jeopardising "peace and stability" in the strategic waterway. Chinese ships have used force and coercion to prevent access to islands in the region claimed by smaller nations, US officials have repeatedly said.

There are also tensions between the two countries over China's growing military presence on man-made islands in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

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