Monday Oct 22, 2018
TAIPEI/WASHINGTON: The United States sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Monday in the second such operation this year, as the US military increases the frequency of transits through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
The voyage risks further heightening tensions with China but will likely be viewed in self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support by President Donald Trump’s government, amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
Reuters was first to report US consideration of the sensitive operation on Saturday.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he added.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it closely monitored the operation and was able to “maintain the security of the seas and the airspace” as it occurred.
There was no immediate comment from China.
The US Navy conducted a similar mission in the strait’s international waters in July, which had been the first such voyage in about a year. The latest operation shows the US Navy is increasing the pace of strait passages.
Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.