The US military sent two navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday in a move that risks adding to tensions between China and the international community over access to the strategic waterway.
The increasing frequency of US navy voyages through the 112-mile sea passage that separates Taiwan from China has raised objections from Beijing but been welcomed in Taipei as a sign of support from the Trump administration against Chinese attempts to undermine the self-ruled democracy.
China is seeking to annex Taiwan, which operates like any other democratic nation with its own government, currency and military, and has stepped up attempts to isolate the island since the 2016 election of president Tsai Ing-wen, suspicious that her administration will push for formal independence.
Beijing has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island during drills and has sought to pick off Taiwan’s formal diplomatic allies.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
However, Beijing’s sensitivity over military vessels passing through the Strait is also one of a growing number of flashpoints with Washington and its diplomatic allies over China’s territorial ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region and particularly the South China Sea.
Last week China reportedly made the unusual assertion that France had conducted an “illegal” passage through the Taiwan Strait earlier this month.
Q&A | South China Sea dispute
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, much of the Strait, outside of the 12 nautical mile territorial waters off the Chinese coast, is open to any military and civilian vessels.
However, Ren Guoqiang, a defence ministry spokesman, told a press briefing that Beijing had dispatched its own ships to identify the French vessel and “warn it to leave.” France’s invitation to a parade to mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s navy was subsequently withdrawn.
The voyage of the French frigate Vendemaire was, reported Reuters, a sign that US allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation in international waterways near China, and it could open the door for other allies, such as Japan and Australia, to consider similar operations.
The two destroyers that sailed through the region on Sunday were identified as the William P Lawrence and Stethem.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US navy’s seventh fleet, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the US, which is also in the midst of a trade war with China, has warned Beijing that hostile behaviour from its coast guard and fishing boats will not be treated any differently to aggressive actions by the Chinese navy.
Admiral John Richardson, head of the US navy, issued the warning in an interview with the Financial Times, in response to China’s increasing reliance on non-naval vessels to expand its military presence and stake its claims in the South China Sea.
“I made it very clear that the US navy will not be coerced and will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world,” said the admiral.
Click Here: cheap INTERNATIONAL jersey