TAIPEI, Taiwan — The U.S. Navy sailed two warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such transit made public since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier in August, at a time when tensions keep the waterway particularly busy.
USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville are conducting a routine transit, the US 7th Fleet said. The cruisers “passed through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” the statement said.
China has held many military exercises in the strait as it seeks to punish Taiwan after Pelosi visited the self-ruled island against Beijing’s threats.
China has sent many warships to sail in the Taiwan Strait and waters around Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit, as well as sending fighter jets 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.
China said it had tracked the ships’ movements. “Troops of the (Eastern) Theater Command are on high alert and ready to thwart any provocation at any time,” said Senior Col. Shi Yi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking on CNN on Sunday, said the transit sent “a very clear message, a very consistent message … that the United States Navy, the United States military will sail, fly and operate wherever international law allows us to do so.’
Kirby also noted that the transit is “very much in line with our One China policy, very much in line with our desire to make sure that we can continue to work for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
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 separates Taiwan from China.
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