TAIPEI, Taiwan — The United States Navy has sailed a warship through the Taiwan Strait in its first known transit since China carried out an encirclement exercise around self-ruled Taiwan.
The U.S. 7th Fleet said the transit through the strait by the USS Milius on Sunday was routine. The cruisers “transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the statement said.
Last week China concluded large-scale air and sea drills in the strait in retaliation for Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on April 5 in California. China said Wednesday that the exercises simulating an encirclement of Taiwan were intended as a “serious warning” to pro-independence politicians on the self-governing island and their foreign supporters.
China protested the transit Monday, saying the U.S. transit was a “public hype” and that the Eastern Theater Command was ready at any time to “resolutely safeguard the country’s sovereignty, safety, and regional peace and stability,” according to a statement from the Eastern Theater Command’s spokesperson Shi Yilu.
China has stepped up its military pressure over Taiwan in recent years, sending fighter jets and navy vessels towards the island on a near-daily basis. After former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August, China sent more and more military vessels over the midline of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary that had been accepted for decades. That increasing pressure from China has given greater attention to Taiwan globally.
Visiting French lawmaker Eric Bothorel, who arrived in Taipei on Monday, said that the world is watching.
“What we want to say to Taiwan is if something happens to Taiwan, it will change the world,” Bothorel told reporters. “That is the reason why we have, for instance, a military ship from France, in the China Sea last week. We consider that we have to preserve the freedom of traveling, of moving in this space.”
Taiwan’s military confirmed a French navy vessel had transited the middle of the Taiwan Strait last week. However, it did not elicit a public protest by the Chinese military.
China earlier had sanctioned the organizations involved with Tsai’s visit in the U.S., including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where her meeting with McCarthy and other members of Congress were held. It also sanctioned U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who chairs the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee, for visiting Taiwan.
On Sunday, China launched a rocket carrying a satellite that dropped debris into waters north of the capital Taipei. While the satellite launch had no obvious military purpose, it disrupted travel, delaying flights.
AP videojournalist Taijing Wu contributed to this report.