April 1, 2023

The U.S. Seventh Fleet in Japan said in a statement that the guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville were sailing on Sunday “through the high seas and over waters where freedom of movement applies” in accordance with international law.

It said the border was “ongoing” and “so far has not been interfered with by foreign forces”.

“These vessels (in transit) pass through the strait corridors beyond the territorial waters of any littoral state. The passage of these vessels through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. U.S. forces fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” it says.

The Strait is a 110-mile (180-kilometer) body of water that separates the democratically self-governing island of Taiwan from mainland China.

Although China’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled Taiwan, Beijing claims it – and considers the strait part of its “internal waters”.

However, the U.S. Navy says most of the strait is in international waters.

The Navy invokes an international law that defines territorial waters as extending 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from a country’s coastline and regularly sends its warships through the strait for so-called freedom of navigation operations, including the recent voyage of the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold and the aircraft carrier HMS Port Royal. .
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

The crossings drew an angry response from Beijing.

“The U.S. side’s frequent provocations and displays fully demonstrate that the U.S. is a destroyer of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and a creator of security risks across the Taiwan Strait,” said Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army. Eastern Theater Command, after the Ben Fall’s transit on July 19.

Following Pelosi’s visit to the island earlier this month, Beijing stepped up military exercises in and over the strait.

On Aug. 2, minutes after Pelosi landed on Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army announced a four-day military exercise in six areas surrounding the island.

The drills included the launch of ballistic missiles into the waters surrounding Taiwan, a large number of Chinese warships sailing through the Taiwan Strait, and dozens of PLA warplanes breaking through the median line — which Beijing says it does not recognize but largely respects — between mainland China and Taiwan. point.

According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, PLA fighter jets have continued to cross the center line every day since the drills officially ended, often in double digits. From Aug. 8, the night that Pelosi landed in Taiwan, when the final exercise of the four-day exercise was announced, to Aug. 22, between five and 21 PLA planes crossed the centerline each day.

In July, the month before Pelosi’s trip, Chinese warplanes crossed the center line only once, and the number of jets among them was unknown, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.

In addition, according to Taiwan reports, 5 to 14 PLA warships were found in the waters surrounding Taiwan.

The PLA drills have continued this week as part of the usual busy season for Chinese drills.

China’s Eastern Theater Command said on Friday that it had conducted “multi-service and multi-service joint combat readiness and security patrols and combat training exercises” in the waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan.

Earlier, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, became the latest congressman to visit Taiwan despite pressure from Beijing, saying: “I will not be bullied by communist China and put me back to the island.”

In a tweet Friday morning, the U.S. senator, who does not represent the Biden administration, reiterated her support for Taiwan.

“I will never kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party,” she said in a statement. “I will continue to support (Taiwanese) and their rights to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping will not scare me,” she added later, referring to the Chinese leader.

U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns told CNN last week that Beijing’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “overreacting.”

“We don’t think there should be a crisis in the U.S.-China relationship because of the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ visit to Taiwan — a peaceful visit…it’s a crisis created by the Beijing government,” Burns said in an interview with the U.S. embassy.

Now, the ambassador said, “it is the responsibility of the Beijing government to convince the rest of the world that it will act peacefully in the future”.

“I think the whole world is worried that China has now become a destabilizing factor in the situation in the Taiwan Strait, which is not in anyone’s interest,” he said.

Other U.S. officials have said Washington will not change the way U.S. troops operate in the region.

“We will continue to fly, sail and operate as permitted by international law, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation, which includes standard air and sea transit through the Taiwan Strait in the coming weeks,” said Kurt Campbell. , U.S. President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator told reporters at the White House on Aug. 12.

Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to Washington, said last week that the U.S. border crossing would only increase tensions.

“I do call on my American colleagues to exercise restraint and not do anything to increase tensions,” Qin told reporters in Washington. “If there is any move that undermines China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, China will respond.”

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