Two American warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait early Sunday, in the first such naval exercise since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this month which outraged China’s government.
The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville cruisers are making a routine transit through the Strait, which usually takes about 12 hours, according to a statement from the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan.
“The ship’s 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,” the statement said.
China said it closely monitored the ships.
Troops “are on high alert and ready to foil any provocation at any time,” Colonel Shi Yi, said in a statement posted to Chinese microblogging site Weibo, on the account of the People Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command.
Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan earlier this month angered Beijing which considers the island to be a breakaway Chinese territory and has not ruled out using military force to bring it under its control.
When the civil war in China between the communists and the nationalists ended in 1949 with the former triumphant, the latter set up a rival government in Taipei.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. has officially recognized only Beijing, but it has also become Taiwan’s main arms supplier and international backer.
Taiwan says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and so has no claim to it, and that only Taiwan’s 23 million people can decide their future.
In response to Pelosi’s visit, China has carried out large military drills near the island, sending warships through the Strait, scrambling fighter jets and firing long-range missiles over it.
There was a more muted response after a congressional delegation led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and including Reps. John Garamendi and Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., and Don Beyer, D-Va., as well as Delegate Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa, visited Taiwan almost two weeks later.