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US warship transits through Taiwan Strait, China angered

January 6, 2023

The US Navy said a guided missile destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate "freedom of navigation" in accordance with international law. The waterway is a flash point between Beijing and Taiwan.

 The Guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon transits the Pacific Ocean.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the USS Chung-Hoon had sailed in a northerly direction along the straitImage: Devin M. Langer/AFP

An US Navy warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday, irking China, which claims the waters as its territory. 

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Chung-Hoon carried out the passage, a statement from the US Navy said, calling it a routine activity.

USS Chung-Hoon "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Jan. 5 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law," the statement said.

"Chung-Hoon's 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," it added.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, territorial seas off of a nation's coasts extend for 12 nautical miles.

How did China respond?

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait reached their highest point in years in August 2022 following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. Beijing responded by staging days of air and sea drills around the self- ruled island that China claims as its own.

Following Thursday's statement from the US Navy, spokesperson for China's embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, said China firmly opposed the move and called on the US to "immediately stop provoking troubles, escalating tensions and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."

"US warships frequently flex muscles in the name of exercising freedom of navigation. This is not about keeping the region free and open," the spokesperson said in the statement.

"China will continue to stay on high alert and is ready to respond to all threats and provocations at any time, and will resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said the vessel had sailed in a northerly direction along the strait and its forces had monitored its passage and observed nothing out of the ordinary.

Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei, as Beijing demands that its partners choose between China and Taiwan. However, the US is also Taiwan's most significant political and military backer.

dvv/wmr (AFP, Reuters)