Photo Credit: Markus Castaneda
Two US Navy warships have been dispatched and have already managed to enter the Taiwan Strait. The US government’s action is the first since tensions between Beijing and the US heightened after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan over a month ago.
In a statement, the Japan-based US 7th Fleet based, said, “[The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville were making the voyage through waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law.”
According to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, the deployment of the two warships sends a strong message to anyone that the US military will go to regions where international laws allow it.
“These ships (are transiting) through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. The ships’ 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,” the 7th Fleet further said in its statement.
Meanwhile, the Chinese military, via the Eastern Theater Command, has stated that it is constantly monitoring the ships and is prepared to deal with any provocation from the vessels.
The Navy ships are traveling through the Taiwan Strait, a 110-mile stretch of water between self-governing Taiwan and mainland China. It is to be noted that China has long laid claim to Taiwan as part of the country’s territory. In effect, the Strait is a portion of China’s internal waters.
The United States claims that the straight is part of international waters under international law, which asserts that territorial waters are 12 nautical miles from a country’s coastline. As a result, the Strait does not form part of China’s territorial waters.
Beijing is angry
“The frequent provocations and showing-off by the US fully demonstrate that the US is the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the creator of security risks in the Taiwan Strait, stated the spokesperson of the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, Colonel Shi Yi.
Since Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, China has increased its military presence and activities near Taiwan’s territorial waters. Following the House Speaker’s visit to the island nation, Chinese vessels and warplanes made their way to the Taiwan Strait. China’s military activities are clear manifestations of its dissatisfaction with US-Taiwan relations.
The Eastern Command said that it has started “joint combat-readiness security patrols and combat training exercises involving troops of multiple services and arms in the waters and airspace [around Taiwan].”
The announcement comes in response to the second round of US officials’ visits to Taiwan, during which US Senator Marsha Blackburn expressed her support for the country and stated, “I will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island.”
“I will never kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party. I will continue to stand with the (Taiwanese) and their right to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping doesn’t scare me,” Blackburn added.
Overreaction from China
According to US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, China’s pressure on Taiwan is an overreaction on their part.
“We do not believe there should be a crisis in US-China relations over the visit — the peaceful visit — of the speaker of the House of Representatives to Taiwan … it was a manufactured crisis by the government in Beijing,” explained Burns.
“[It is now] incumbent upon the government here in Beijing to convince the rest of the world that it will act peacefully in the future,” he added.
Meanwhile, China has implored the US to halt its military transits because they will only exacerbate tensions between the countries involved. Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to Washington, stated that if the US continues to escalate the tension, China will be forced to respond. However, US officials stated that the country would make these decisions independently as long as it complied with international law.
According to the US president’s coordinator of the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, “We’ll continue to fly, sail, and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation, and that includes conducting standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks,” said
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