The United States Navy has announced that the USS Milius, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Sunday. The US Navy’s 7th Fleet stated that the vessel sailed through waters “where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law”. The transit was intended to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. There was no immediate response from China. The US Navy regularly conducts similar freedom of navigation missions in the disputed South China Sea.
China views Taiwan as its own territory and officially ended three days of exercises around the island last Monday. The drills were staged to express anger at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which Beijing viewed as an interference in China’s internal affairs and US support for Taiwan’s separate identity from China.
The US Navy sails warships through the Taiwan Strait around once a month. Last week, the USS Milius sailed near Mischief Reef, one of the most important man-made and Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea. China denounced the move as illegal.
China has continued its military activities around Taiwan since the drills ended, albeit on a reduced scale. On Monday, Taiwan’s defence ministry reported that it had spotted 18 Chinese military aircraft and four naval vessels operating around Taiwan in the previous 24-hour period.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratically governed Taiwan under its control. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s territorial claims and insists that only the island’s people can decide their future.