The US Navy is sailing two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, in the first such transit publicized since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier in August, at a time when tensions have kept the waterway particularly busy.
The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville are conducting a routine transit, the US Navy's 7th Fleet said. The cruisers “transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the statement said.
'No interference so far'
It said the transit was "ongoing" and that there had been "no interference from foreign military forces so far."
"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," it said.
China conducted many military exercises in the strait as it sought to punish Taiwan after Pelosi visited the self-ruled island against Beijing’s threats.
China has sent many warships sailing in the Taiwan Strait and waters surrounding Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit, as well as sending warplanes and firing long-range missiles. It views the island as part of its national territory and opposes any visits by foreign governments as recognizing Taiwan as its own state.
The US regularly sends its ships through the Taiwan Strait as part of what it calls 'freedom of navigation maneuvers'.
The 100 mile-wide (160 kilometer-wide) strait divides Taiwan from China.
China likely to view it as provocation
The US Navy cites 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 in what it calls freedom of navigation operations, including recent voyages by the guided missile destroyers USS Benfold and USS Port Royal.
Those transits drew angry responses from Beijing.
"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," Col. Shi Yi, spokesman for the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command, said after the Benfold's transit on July 19.
Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the strait -- and the skies above it -- following the visit by Pelosi to the island earlier this month.