Photo Credit: Markus Castaneda
Two United States Navy warships have already sailed into the Taiwan Strait. Tensions between China and the US rose following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan more than a month ago, and this action by the US government could possibly aggravate matters between the countries.
In a statement, the US 7th Fleet based in Japan said, “[The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville were making the voyage through waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law.”
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the deployment of the two warships sends a message to everyone that the US military will go to locations as long as international laws allow them to do so.
“These ships (are transiting) through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. The ships’ 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,” added the statement from the 7th Fleet.
Through the Eastern Theater Command, the Chinese military has stated that it is actively monitoring the ships and is ready to react to any provocations from them.
The 110-mile-long Strait that separates self-governing Taiwan from mainland of China is where the Navy ships are currently sailing. It should be noted that China has long regarded Taiwan as a component of its territory. The Strait, therefore, forms a part of China’s territorial waters.
Despite this, the US claimed that the straight falls within international waters because of international law, which prescribes that territorial waters begin 12 nautical miles from a nation’s shoreline. As a result, the Strait does not form part of Chinese territorial waters.
Beijing angry over the decision
The spokesperson of the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, Colonel Shi Yi, said, “The frequent provocations and showing-off by the US fully demonstrate that the US is the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the creator of security risks in the Taiwan Strait.”
Since Pelosi decided to travel to Taiwan, China has increased its military activity and presence in the areas closest to Taiwan’s territorial waters. Chinese ships and a number of warplanes then headed to the Taiwan Strait after the House Speaker’s visit to the island nation. China’s opposition to US-Taiwan relations is manifested clearly in these military actions.
In a statement, the Eastern Command said that it has started “joint combat-readiness security patrols and combat training exercises involving troops of multiple services and arms in the waters and airspace [around Taiwan].”
The dissent expressed by the Chinese military is in response to the second round of US officials’ visits to Taiwan, where US Senator Marsha Blackburn stated her support for the country and said, “I will not be bullied by Communist China into turning my back on the island.”
“I will never kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party. I will continue to stand with the (Taiwanese) and their right to freedom and democracy. Xi Jinping doesn’t scare me,” the official added.
China is just overreacting
According to Nicholas Burns, the US ambassador to China, China’s intense pressure on Taiwan is an overreaction.
“We do not believe there should be a crisis in US-China relations over the visit — the peaceful visit — of the speaker of the House of Representatives to Taiwan … it was a manufactured crisis by the government in Beijing,” explained the ambassador.
“[It is now] incumbent upon the government here in Beijing to convince the rest of the world that it will act peacefully in the future,” he added.
As the US continues its military transits, China advises the US to stop because it will only amplify conflict between the parties. Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to Washington, warned that if the US continued to do what it is doing now, China would be forced to retaliate. Officials from the US, however, asserted that as long as it falls under the ambit of international law, it would independently make these decisions.
“We’ll continue to fly, sail, and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation, and that includes conducting standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks,” said the US president’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell.
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