Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A US Navy photo of the voyage. Photo: Handout

US sends warships through Taiwan Strait in first operation since Nancy Pelosi’s visit

  • The US navy said two cruisers, the USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, had passed through waters ‘beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state’
  • It was the first such exercise since the PLA responded to the US House Speaker’s visit with a series of unprecedented war games
Two US warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday in the first such operation since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to the island.

Two guided-missile cruisers from the US Seventh Fleet – the USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville – passed through waters that are “beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state”, the US Navy said in a statement on Sunday.

China-Japan ties at ‘new crossroads’ amid Taiwan row, envoy says

Pelosi’s visit triggered days of military drills that effectively blockaded the island.

The US Navy said in the Sunday statement that the voyage shows the US commitment “to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The People’s Liberation Army described the trip by the Ticonderoga-class cruisers as “showing off”.

“The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command warned the US vessels and monitored their entire passage. We are fully aware of their activities. Troops of the theatre command remain on high alert and are ready to thwart any provocation,” Senior Colonel Shi Yi said in a statement.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said the military kept track of the situation during the southbound passage through the strait by the warships and described the situation as “normal”.

The Antietam and the Chancellorsville are part of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group based in Yokosuka, Japan. The carrier and its strike group travelled through the South China Sea before Pelosi’s flight to Taipei.


Taiwan showcases fighter jets as mainland China’s war games continue following Pelosi visit

Taiwan showcases fighter jets as mainland China’s war games continue following Pelosi visit
Washington’s ties with Beijing have sunk to new lows over Taiwan and Pelosi’s trip to the island triggered unprecedented PLA live-fire military exercises around the self-ruled island. More US lawmakers and officials from other countries have followed her example by visiting the island in recent weeks.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a treaty with 158 signatories including Beijing, says all shipping can pass through territorial waters within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of a country’s low-tide shoreline.

Beijing deems Taiwan to be a Chinese province to be brought under its control, by force if necessary.

Like most countries, the US does not recognise Taiwan as an independent state, but it opposes any attempt to use force to change the status quo.

PLA runs new live drills near Taiwan in face of ‘changing’ situation

While the US had deployed two warships through the Taiwan Strait before, it was the first reported transit by two American cruisers in the past four years.

It is less common for cruisers to make the transit through the strait.

“Having a pair of the same class of cruisers doing this transit at the same time is rather unprecedented,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“This appears to reinforce the notion of freedom of transit passage notwithstanding the PLA drills and Beijing’s apparent attempt to change the status quo of the Taiwan Strait median line.”

He said the PLA exercises were unlikely to result in either side changing their military activities because that would make them look weak.

Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s naval academy, said the US showed it would continue to act as it had before Pelosi’s trip.

Beijing has repeatedly said it has jurisdiction, sovereignty and sovereign rights – the specific privileges of a coastal state to use a body of water – over the Taiwan Strait. The strait, it said was not international water.

Lu said: “If the US does not continue to enter the strait, it would show that Beijing’s warnings had worked. Of course, the US cannot create this misunderstanding and must send ships to the strait.”

Since the PLA’s large-scale military drills began earlier this month, mainland China has sent warplanes across the Taiwan Strait median line every day until Saturday. The line is a de facto boundary that both sides largely respected for decades, although Beijing does not officially recognise it and has sought to demonstrate that the PLA is not bound by the line.

Beijing also suspended several military channels of communication with the US, increasing the risk of an escalation.

Dialogue mechanisms for PLA and US theatre commands were cancelled, as were work meetings between the defence ministries and talks on maritime safety.