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US warship sails through Taiwan Strait, China ‘concerned’

US warship sails through Taiwan Strait, China ‘concerned’
July 25
16:40 2019

TAIPEI: An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the US Navy and Taiwanese authorities said Thursday, triggering concern in Beijing.

The transit came as China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, unveiled a defence white paper Wednesday stressing its willingness to use force to thwart any move towards the self-ruled island’s independence, and accusing the United States of undermining global stability.

It also followed an unprecedented joint Chinese-Russian air force exercise this week that triggered furious protests of airspace violations by key US regional allies South Korea and Japan.

According to the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, the USS Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, conducted a routine transit through the narrow waterway separating the Chinese mainland and Taiwan during July 24-25.

The transit “demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, the Fleet said in a statement.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.” American warships periodically conduct navigation exercises in the waterway, sparking angry responses from China.

But Beijing’s reaction to the latest sail-by was relatively restrained, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying China had “expressed its concerns to the American side”.

“The Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-American relations,” Hua said.

She said China urges the United States to respect the “One China” principle, and “treat Taiwanese issues with care and diligence so as not to undermine Sino-American relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

Beijing lodged a protest with Washington in May after a US destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the strait.

China views any ships passing through the strait as essentially a breach of its sovereignty – while the US and many other nations view the route as international waters open to all.

Last month, a Canadian frigate and a support vessel passed through Taiwan Strait in a recent string of such transits, as they came from a visit to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay heading to Northeast Asia.

The ships were going to join “a multinational effort to counter North Korea’s evasion of UN Security Council sanctions by maritime smuggling”.

In April, Beijing said its navy had warned off a French warship that had entered the Taiwan Strait earlier that month and lodged an official complaint with Paris. (AFP)

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