TAIPEI/BEIJING — The US warship USS Milius sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, in what the US Navy described on Monday as a “routine” transit, just days after China ended its latest war games around the island.
China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, officially ended its three days of exercises around Taiwan last Monday where it practiced precision strikes and blockading the island.
It staged the drills to express anger at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, viewing it as an interference in China’s internal affairs and US support for Taiwan’s separate identity from China.
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” through waters “where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”.
The ship’s transit demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, it added.
Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a social media post on Monday it organized troops to follow and monitor the US destroyer throughout its operation.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said the ship sailed in a northerly direction through the strait and that during its transit the situation in the strait was “as normal”.
The US Navy sails warships through the strait around once a month, and also regularly conducts similar freedom of navigation missions in the disputed South China Sea.
Last week, the USS Milius sailed near one of the most important man-made and Chinese controlled islands in the South China Sea, Mischief Reef. Beijing denounced it as illegal.
China has continued its military activities around Taiwan since the drills ended, though on a reduced scale.
On Monday morning, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had spotted 18 Chinese military aircraft and four naval vessels operating around Taiwan in the previous 24-hour period.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratically governed Taiwan under its control.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s territorial claims, and says only the island’s people can decide their future. — Reuters