The U.S. sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait this weekend, leading to an angry response from China who warned such actions could further undermine relations between the two countries.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, two U.S. vessels sailed through Taiwanese waters off the island’s southwest coast on Sunday, angering officials in Beijing who claim sovereignty over the region.
“China has been closely monitoring from start to end the passage by the U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Monday. “China has lodged stern representations with the U.S.”
Meanwhile, Seventh Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley said that USS Curtis Wilbur and U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf went through “in accordance with international law.”
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said. “The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. also granted an official request from the Taiwanese government for the purchase of new fighter jets aimed at “countering current enemy threats,” as the Chinese military steps up its aggression against the self-governing island. The two countries separated during the 1949 Civil War, but Beijing now argues that Taiwan should remain under its jurisdiction and demands that they must be reunified, in what is referred to as the ‘One China Policy.’
The U.S., however, has consistently shown steadfast support for Taiwan’s right to self-determination, with last year’s Defense Act stating that it will “strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan to support the development of capable, ready and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”
The incident comes just days before a scheduled visit to Beijing by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as the two sides continue negotiations over trade between the world’s two largest economies. Next month, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will also lead a delegation to Washington for follow up talks.