US Navy warship transits through Taiwan Strait

An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, the US Navy said, in a move likely to anger Beijing.

The guided missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Jan. 5 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the Navy said in a statement.

“Chung-Hoon’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,” it added.

Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the self-ruled, democratic island as part of its territory to be seized one day — by force if necessary.

Washington diplomatically recognises Beijing over Taipei, but maintains de facto relations with Taiwan and supports the island’s right to decide its own future.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait soared to their highest level in years in August 2022 after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, with Beijing staging days of air and sea exercises around the island.

The fracas came after Germany announced it will send a high-ranking parliamentary delegation to Taiwan next week, followed by the first ministerial visit in two decades in moves certain to spark tensions with China.

Deputies from the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), a junior partner in Germany’s coalition government, planned the trip in a sign of “solidarity” with the self-ruled democracy which China claims as part of its territory, the head of parliament’s defence committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, told AFP.

The trip is to be followed by a visit from German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, also of the FDP, in the spring, sources told AFP.

It would be the first by a member of the German cabinet in 26 years. Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear once again at the Communist Party’s most recent congress “that he is prepared to resolve the conflict over the role of Taiwan also with military means”, said Strack-Zimmermann, who will lead the MPs’ delegation.

“Our trip to Taiwan at the start of the new year is meant to clearly show that we will never accept the plain law of the strongest becoming part of international politics again, including in the Indo-Pacific,” she added.

Also in August, the German air force boosted its presence in the Indo-Pacific with the deployment of 13 military aircraft, one year after it dispatched a frigate to the region for the first time in almost two decades.

China opposes any official exchanges with Taiwan, and has reacted with growing anger to a flurry of visits by Western politicians to the island.

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