China says it is “ready to defeat any provocation” as two US Navy warships sail through international waters in the Taiwan Strait.
It comes just weeks after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the region – the highest-ranking elected US official to visit in more than 25 years.
The narrow strait has been a source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists.
Confirming the operation, the US Navy said the cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam had “transited through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state”.
It normally takes eight to 12 hours to cross the 100 mile-wide (160km-wide) Taiwan strait, which divides the island nation from China.
The operation demonstrates America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the US military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows, the navy added.
China ready to ‘thwart any provocation’
Nations including the UK and Canada have been among the other nations to send ships through the Taiwan Strait in recent years.
The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said it was monitoring the US naval movements, ready to “thwart any provocation”, and that its troops “remain on high alert”.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the two US ships were sailing in a southerly direction and that its forces were observing, but that “the situation was as normal”.
China’s military responded by carrying out more exercises near the island. They have also sent warplanes and firing long-range missiles.
Three more US dignitaries have visited this month.
President Joe Biden‘s administration has sought to keep tension between Washington and Beijing from boiling over into conflict, reiterating that congressional trips are routine.
The US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Taiwan is home to 23 million people, and has never been ruled by China. Regardless, China views the island as part of its national territory.