US Naval Vessels Transit Through Taiwan Strait As Chinese Military Looks On

(ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Two U.S. Navy warships transited through the Taiwan Strait under close watch from the Chinese military on Sunday, the first publicized movement since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on Aug. 3, CNN reported.

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) maneuvered through the strait, where “high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” on Aug. 28 local time, the 7th fleet said. China claims the waters dividing the self-governing island of Taiwan as part of its “internal waters,” although the U.S. maintains that the territory is solely under international jurisdiction, according to CNN.

The transit sent a “very clear” message that “the United States Navy, the United States military will sail, fly and operate wherever international law permits us to do so,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Sunday. (RELATED: US Likely To Go To War With China In The Next Decade, Experts Say)

“This was planned long ago,” Kirby added.

Eight Chinese naval vessels and 23 aircraft performed maneuvers in the strait on Aug. 28 as well, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry. Chinese forces have habitually crossed the unofficial “median line” dividing Chinese and Taiwanese territory in the strait since Pelosi’s visit, part of a series of military drills intended to maintain pressure on Taiwan.

“Troops of the (Eastern) Theater Command are on high alert and ready to foil any provocation at any time,” Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command spokesperson senior Col. Shi Yi said, according to The Associated Press.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows,” the 7th fleet said.

Kirby told reporters on Aug. 4 that the USS Ronald Reagan and the warships that make up its carrier strike group (CSG), including the Antietam, would conduct maneuvers through the Taiwan Strait “in the next few weeks.” The strike group would monitor activities in the waters surrounding Taiwan, Kirby said, “for a little bit longer than they were originally planned to be.”

No transits were made public in the U.S. from after Kirby’s remarks until Aug. 28, the AP reported. The Reagan took up station in the Philippine Sea near Taiwan and the Chinese war drills ahead of Pelosi’s visit and returned to its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, on Aug. 19, according to U.S. Naval Institute News.

The U.S. regularly conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” maneuvers through the 100-kilometer strait, according to CNN. China labeled the most recent transit, conducted by the USS Benfold in July, as a “provocation” and claimed it was monitoring the vessel.

China stepped up aggressive military maneuvers in the waters around Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s Aug. 3 meeting with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen, which it saw as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and the mainland’s claim to rule the island. Several U.S. congressional leaders have also traveled to the island since.

The U.S. Navy and 7th Fleet did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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