U.S. warships alert Chinese navy

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two United States warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the American navy said, the first such transit since China staged unprecedented military drills around the island.

In a statement, the US Navy said the transit “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The US Seventh Fleet said the pair of Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers — the USS Antietam and the USS Chancellorsville — conducted the “routine” transit on Sunday “through waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law.”

“These ships transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” a statement said.

“The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army said the US had “openly hyped up” the ships’ passage through the Strait.

“The PLA Eastern Theater Command is following and warning the US vessels throughout their entire journey, and is aware of all movements,” spokesperson Senior Colonel Shi Yi said.

“Troops in the (eastern) theater remain on high alert and are prepared at all times to foil any provocations.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed a pair of warships sailed from north to south through the channel.

“During their southward journey through the Taiwan Strait, the military is fully monitoring relevant movements in our surrounding sea and airspace, and the situation is normal.”

The Seventh Fleet is based in Japan and is a core part of Washington’s navy presence in the Pacific.

The US and Western allies have increased “freedom of navigation” crossings by naval vessels of both the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea to reinforce the concept that those seas are international waterways, sparking anger from Beijing.

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