A U.S. Navy warship has transited the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait for the second time in two weeks.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry confirmed the operation on Monday amid rising tensions between China and the United States.
The ministry said a U.S. destroyer, which it did not name, had sailed in a southerly direction through the strait and was continuing to sail south.
The ship was on an ‘ordinary mission’ and the situation was ‘normal’, the ministry added, without giving details.
A U.S. Navy warship has transited the narrow and sensitive Taiwan Strait for the second time in two weeks. Above, a file image of a MH-60 Sea Hawk transiting the Taiwan Strait in May this year
The U.S. Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin sailed through the strait on August 18, in what China’s military called an ‘extremely dangerous’ move.
Both China and the United States have been stepping up their military activities in the region, both around Chinese-claimed Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen warned last week of the risk of accidental conflict from the rise in military activities.
China claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
The United States is Taiwan’s main arms supplier and most important backer on the international stage.
The incident comes days after a U.S. warship sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, challenging Beijing’s claims on the resource-rich waterway and prompting a warning from the Chinese military.
The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet said in a statement that the USS Mustin, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed on Thursday ‘in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands to ensure critical shipping lanes in the area remain free and open’.
The Chinese military on Friday accused the US ship of entering ‘China’s territorial waters’ near the islands ‘without authorisation’.
The region near the disputed Paracel Islands has seen heightened tensions recently with both the US and China conducting military operations
Chinese forces tracked the warship and then warned it to leave, said military spokesman Li Huamin.
In recent years, China has aggressively pursued its territorial claims in the South China Sea, building small shoals and reefs into military bases with airstrips and port facilities.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan also have competing claims in the South China Sea, through which international trade worth trillions of dollars passes a year.
Tensions have risen this week in the area near the Paracel Islands – called Xisha by Beijing – where the Chinese military has been conducting exercises.
Beijing on Tuesday accused Washington of flying a U-2 spy plane into a no-fly zone to disrupt the drills – which included the ballistic missile launches.
The Pentagon then accused China of destabilising the region and using the military for ‘unlawful maritime claims’ in a statement criticising the exercises and the use of ballistic missiles in the drills.
The Chinese military on Friday said the US had ‘repeatedly provoked trouble in the South China Sea’, urging it to ‘immediately stop such provocative actions’.