US Warship Again Sails Through Taiwan Strait, Prompting Anger From Beijing

US Warship Again Sails Through Taiwan Strait, Prompting Anger From Beijing
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in this Aug. 15, 2013. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Handout via Reuters)

A U.S. warship has again sailed through the sensitive waterway that separates Taiwan from its giant neighbor China, at a time of increased tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Tuesday in accordance with international law.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows,” it said.

A spokesman for China’s Eastern Theatre Command on Wednesday expressed strong opposition to the move.

“The U.S. actions sends the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, deliberately disrupting the regional situation and endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

Chinese forces tracked and monitored the ship throughout its voyage, he added.

The Chinese regime sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, even though the island has been governed as a distinct entity for more than seven decades. Beijing has also vowed to retake Taiwan by military force if necessary. It views U.S. military transits of the Taiwan Strait as provocations, despite the waterway being deemed as open to all countries for transit under international law.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the U.S. ship had sailed in a southerly direction through the strait and the “situation was as normal.”

The U.S. Navy has been conducting such operations every month or so.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its most important international backer and a major seller of arms.

Military tension between Taiwan and Beijing have spiked over the past year, with Taipei complaining of China repeatedly sending its air force into Taiwan’s air defense zone. Some of those activities can involve multiple fighters and bombers.

Cathy He contributed to this report.