Navy sails two warships through Taiwan Strait

Navy sails two warships through Taiwan Strait
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The U.S. Navy sailed two warships through the Strait of Taiwan on Monday in a move sure to rile China amid heightened tensions with Beijing.

The operation was first announced by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense and then confirmed by the U.S. military.

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The USS Antietam, a guided missile cruiser, and the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, conducted a “routine” transit through the strait “in accordance with international law,” U.S. Pacific Fleet said.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr said in a statement. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the ships sailed from south to north and that it closely monitored the operation to “maintain the security of the seas and the airspace.”

The strategic Taiwan Strait separates self-governed Taiwan from mainland China, which continues to claim the island as its own. The waterway is seen as a potential chokepoint if China tries to reassert sovereignty over Taiwan by force.

Monday’s operation is the second time the U.S. military has transited the Taiwan Strait this year.

After the July operation, Chinese state-run media accused the United States of engaging in a ”psychological game.”

The United States officially adheres to the “One China” policy, which maintains that there is one China and that Beijing represents it, but the Trump administration has sought closer ties to Taiwan, formally known as the Republican of China.

In September, the administration signed off on a $330 million arms sale to Taiwan. The sale inflamed U.S.-China tensions, as did U.S. trade policy, sanctions and the South China Sea.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisShanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report Pentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report MORE met with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe last week on the sidelines of an Asian security forum, telling him that U.S. policy toward Taiwan is unchanged. 

“Minister Wei raised Taiwan and concerns about our policy. The Secretary reassured Minister Wei that we haven’t changed our Taiwan policy, our one China policy,” Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense in charge of Asia policy, told reporters traveling with Mattis.