Militaries of the US and Canada both confirmed transit of naval vessels via the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, at a moment seeing heightened military tension between Beijing and Taipei.
The US Navy warship made a second transit within a month, making for the second joint transit by the United States and Canada in less than a year, as of October 2021.
The trips have angered China, which claims Taiwan despite objections by the island’s democratically elected government. China condemned the mission, saying its forces had “warned” the ships.
In recent years, US warships, as well as occasionally those of allied nations such as Britain and Canada routinely sail through the strait, and the US Navy officials have stated that cooperative missions as these represent the centrepiece of its approach to a secure and prosperous region.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Higgins and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate Vancouver made the transit through a corridor in the strait lying beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state.
The @USNavy's @USSHIGGINS, in cooperation with the @RoyalCanNavy's HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Sept. 20 (local time).#FreeandOpenIndoPacific #InternationalbyDesign
Read the official statement here:https://t.co/QM7YUZmXwF pic.twitter.com/xRG8CEGuEX
— 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) September 20, 2022
Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said that as a Pacific nation, her country was deeply committed to upholding global stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry welcomed the action, stating that “this operation though the Taiwan Strait is, even more, a concrete demonstration of the resolute opposition of democratic allies to China’s expansion attempts.”
The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army have said that 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,” it said in a statement, employing its usual phrasing for such responses.
The Taiwan News later reported that at least four Chinese vessels have been spotted trailing the US ships, as seen on a satellite image posted by an independent journalist. The image was taken from the Sentinel-2 satellite taken at 2:52 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), 10:52 a.m. Taiwan Time, on Tuesday. Duan Dong stated that four of the ships were from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
A lively scene in Taiwan Strait on 20 Sept. USS Higgins and HMCS Vancouver followed by several Chinese warships while sailing near the median line. pic.twitter.com/T3w689yvtJ
— Duan Dang (@duandang) September 21, 2022
The Taiwan defence ministry said that it had tracked 12 Chinese aircraft crossing the median line of the strait on Wednesday, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer which China now crosses on an almost daily basis.
The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension. A visit to Taiwan early in August by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi enraged China, which subsequently launched military drills near the island which have been continuing, albeit on a much reduced scale.
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