Two US warships crossed the Taiwan Strait early Sunday, in the first naval exercise since Chairman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month, outraging the Chinese government.
The cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville make a routine passage through the Strait, which usually takes about 12 hours, according to a statement from the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan.
“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US military flies, sails and operates wherever international law allows,” the statement said.
China said it was keeping a close eye on the ships.
Troops “are on high alert and ready at any time to thwart any provocation,” Colonel Shi Yi said in a statement posted to China’s Weibo microblogging site, on behalf of the People Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan earlier this month infuriated Pelosi, who views the island as a breakaway Chinese territory and has not ruled out the use of military force to bring it under his control.
When China’s civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists ended with the former victorious in 1949, the latter established a rival government in Taipei.
Since the 1970s, the US has only officially recognized Beijing, but it has also become Taiwan’s main arms supplier and international support.
Taiwan says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and thus has no claim to it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million residents can decide their future.
In response to Pelosi’s visit, China has conducted major military exercises near the island, sending warships across the Strait, scrambling fighter jets and firing long-range missiles over it.
There was a more muted reaction after a congress delegation led by Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., and including Representatives John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., and Don Beyer, D-Va., as well as Deputy Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa, nearly two weeks later visited Taiwan.