US warship sails through strategic Taiwan Strait

TAIPEI • A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday, the island's Defence Ministry said, less than a week after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election by a landslide on a platform of standing up to China, which claims the island.

The ship sailed in a northerly direction through the sensitive waterway and Taiwan's armed forces monitored it throughout, the ministry said in a brief statement yesterday, describing the sailing as an "ordinary mission".

Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial and diplomatic issue, and Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control. The narrow Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from China, is a frequent source of tension.

China sailed its latest aircraft carrier, the Shandong, through the waterway twice in the run-up to Taiwan's election last Saturday. Taiwan denounced that as attempted intimidation.

The US Navy said the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh had completed a transit of the Taiwan Strait, without giving details. The US has been conducting sporadic missions through the strait in the last two years.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the government also "closely watched" and monitored the ship's passage, urging the US to "appropriately deal with the Taiwan issue in a way that doesn't hurt Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.

Meeting the de facto British ambassador to Taiwan later yesterday, Ms Tsai said the island would ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait. "As a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan will continue to dedicate itself to protecting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," the presidential office cited Ms Tsai as telling Ms Catherine Nettleton.

Under the Trump administration, the US has made bolstering its defence and other ties with Taiwan a priority, in spite of Chinese anger.

 
 

The top US diplomat in Taiwan, Mr Brent Christensen, told a forum in Taipei yesterday that his office this year will seek to further Taiwan's engagement in the world, something the island has found difficult due to China blocking Taiwan's participation in most international organisations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2020, with the headline 'US warship sails through strategic Taiwan Strait'. Print Edition | Subscribe