US says naval destroyer sailed through Taiwan Strait

The United States has sent a naval warship through the Taiwan Strait in a “freedom of navigation” operation days after China staged massive war games around the self-ruled island.

The USS Milius guided-missile destroyer “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Sunday, the US Navy said, in the first US operation in the waters separating Taiwan from mainland China since January.

Beijing launched three days of military exercises around Taiwan on April 8 in which it simulated targeted strikes and practised a blockade of the island.

China claims democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to bring the island under its control one day. It also claims the entire Taiwan Strait as its territorial waters.

The US Navy said the Milius had sailed “through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”.

The 7th Fleet shared images Monday on Twitter of crew looking out into the strait, one of the most crucial waterways in the world for international shipping.

“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the Navy said, adding that the sail-through demonstrated the US commitment to a free and open Asia-Pacific region.

“The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

– War games –

Beijing launched its drills around the island in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent visit to the United States, where she met with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

On the final day of last week’s drills, Taiwan’s defence ministry said 54 Chinese planes crossed into Taiwan’s southwestern and southeastern air defence identification zone (ADIZ) — the highest recorded in a single day since October 2021.

That same day, the USS Milius sailed through waters claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The deployment triggered condemnation from China, which said the vessel had “illegally intruded” into its territorial waters.

Since the war games ended, Chinese warships and aircraft have continued to circle Taiwan.

On Monday, Taipei’s defence ministry said it had detected four warships and 18 aircraft, four of which had crossed its southwestern ADIZ.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon had previously sailed through the Taiwan Strait on January 5, months after McCarthy’s predecessor Nancy Pelosi visited the island.

The Pelosi trip sparked China’s largest-ever war games around Taiwan.

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