BEIJING, Aug 28 - China's military said on Sunday it was monitoring U.S. Navy vessels sailing through the Taiwan Strait, maintaining a high alert and ready to defeat any provocations.
Two United States warships are sailing through international waters in the Taiwan Strait in the first such operation since China staged unprecedented military drills in the waterway last month.
In a statement on Sunday, the US Navy said the transit “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
The U.S. Navy said the guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville conducted a "routine Taiwan Strait transit" on Sunday, in accordance with international law.
Tensions in the Taiwan Strait soared to their highest level in years this month after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, reacted by staging days of air and sea exercises around the self-ruled island.
Beijing, which has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control, saw the trip as a US attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs. Three US officials told the Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity that US Navy cruisers Chancellorsville and Antietam were carrying out the operation. Such operations usually take between eight and 12 hours to complete and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.
US warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as the United Kingdom and Canada, have routinely sailed through the Strait in recent years, drawing Beijing’s anger. A week after Pelosi’s visit, a group of five other US legislators visited Taiwan as well, with China’s military responding by carrying out more exercises nearby.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, a US legislator on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday on the third visit by an American dignitary this month.