US, Canadian warships carry out Taiwan Strait transit

Canadian frigate Vancouver and the US destroyer Higgins transited the Taiwan Strait. PHOTO: TWITTER/CANADIAN ARMED FORCES OPERATIONS

WASHINGTON - A US Navy warship and a Canadian frigate carried out a routine transit of the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, the US military said, an operation which comes amid heightened military tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

China condemned the mission, saying its forces “warned” the ships.

In recent years, US warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have routinely sailed through the strait, drawing the ire of China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary.

In a statement, the US Navy said its Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Higgins and the Royal Canadian Navy's Halifax-class frigate Vancouver conducted the transit through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state.

"Cooperation like this represents the centrepiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region," the Navy statement added.

Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand said that her country, as a Pacific nation, was deeply committed to upholding global stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.  

“Today’s routine Taiwan Strait transit demonstrates our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” she said in a statement.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry welcomed the action.

“This operation though the Taiwan Strait is, even more, a concrete demonstration of the resolute opposition of democratic allies to China’s expansion attempts,” it said.

The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its forces monitored the ships and “warned them”.

“Theatre forces are always on high alert, resolutely counter all threats and provocations, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Command, describing the latest transit as "public hype".

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the ships sailed in northerly direction through the waterway and that its forces observed the mission but that “the situation was as normal”. 

A visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August enraged China. China subsequently launched military drills near the island, which have continued though on a much reduced scale.

The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, who established the People's Republic of China.

The last time US and Canadian warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait was 11 months ago when the destroyer USS Dewey and frigate HMCS Winnipeg made the trip.

The latest joint passage came a day after President Joe Biden again declared that US troops would come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese invasion.

This was the fourth time that Mr Biden made such comments, despite Washington’s longstanding official policy of “strategic ambiguity” – designed both to ward off a Chinese invasion and discourage Taiwan from provoking Beijing by formally declaring independence.

Each time after Mr Biden’s comments, the White House said there was no change in US policy on Taiwan. REUTERS, AFP

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