US Navy warship transits through Taiwan Strait

WASHINGTON (AFP): An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the US Navy said, in a move likely to anger Beijing.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Jan. 5 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the Navy said in a statement.

“Chung-Hoon’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows,” it added.

Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the self-ruled, democratic island as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary.

Washington diplomatically recognizes Beijing over Taipei, but maintains de-facto relations with Taiwan and supports the island’s right to decide its own future.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been tense for some years and they soared to their highest level in years in August 2022 after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei amid warnings from China. Beijing staged days of air and sea exercises around the island as a strong response to the visit of the US official.

Pelosi, the highest-level US visitor to Taiwan in 25 years, praised its democracy and pledged American solidarity during her brief stopover. Chinese anger could not stop world leaders from travelling there, she said.

China summoned the US ambassador in Beijing in protest and halted several agricultural imports from Taiwan.