A US destroyer and a Canadian frigate on Tuesday sailed through the Taiwan Strait in the latest joint operation aimed at reinforcing the route’s status as an international waterway.
Beijing views as its own the narrow body of water separating Taiwan from China — one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.
The US has long used “freedom of navigation” passages through the Strait to push back against Chinese claims and Western allies have increasingly joined these operations.
The USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate the HMCS Vancouver “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Tuesday “in accordance with international law,” the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” it said.
Canada said the Vancouver was en route to join an ongoing mission to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea when it transited with the Higgins.
“Today’s routine Taiwan Strait transit demonstrates our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” Canadian Minister of National Defence Anita Anand said in a statement, using another term for the Asia-Pacific region.
In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed the transit, saying in a statement that the military monitored the ships as they sailed north through the Strait, and did not see any irregularities.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) yesterday said that her ministry welcomed and affirmed the stance of the Canadian and US governments regarding the legal status of the Strait as international waters, and the need to safeguard freedom of navigation, as well as regional peace and stability.
The passage also demonstrates democratic countries’ firm opposition to China’s attempts at expansionism, Ou said.
“The Taiwanese government will continue to strengthen its self-defense capabilities, resolutely resist authoritarian expansion and aggression, and deepen the close Taiwan-US security partnership,” she said. “We will strengthen cooperation with all like-minded countries to jointly safeguard the security of the Taiwan Strait and the rules-based international order.”
A spokesman for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command called the transit “public hype.”
“The troops are always on high alert, resolutely counteract all threats and provocations, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” state broadcaster China Central Television quoted Colonel Shi Yi (施毅) as saying.
Australian, British, Canadian and French warships have sailed through the Strait in the past few years, sparking protests from Beijing.
The latest joint passage came a day after US President Joe Biden again declared that US troops would come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese invasion.
It was the fourth time Biden made such comments, despite Washington’s longstanding official policy of “strategic ambiguity” — designed to ward off a Chinese invasion and discourage Taiwan from provoking Beijing by formally declaring independence.
Each time after Biden’s comments, the White House said there was no change in US policy on Taiwan.
Additional reporting by CNA
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