Sunday, 18 November, 2018

U.S. Navy warships sail through Taiwan Strait

Two U.S. Navy ships passed through the Taiwan Strait Saturday Two U.S. Navy ships passed through the Taiwan Strait Saturday
Ellis Copeland | 09 July, 2018, 18:27

Taiwan's Defense Ministry had earlier announced the sailing, identifying the two warships by their hull numbers and saying they had entered the southern part of the strait and sailed in a northeasterly direction.

Beijing has staged a string of military exercises, including a live-fire drill in the Taiwan Strait in April, which it said were aimed at Taiwan's "independence forces".

The transit, which comes as the US and China spar over trade and access to global waters, is the first since another American destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, entered the strait last July.

Those include the opening of a new office complex for the American Institute in Taiwan, which operates as Washington's de facto embassy on the island in the absence of formal diplomatic ties that were cut when the USA switched recognition to China in 1949.

Two US destroyers, the USS Mustin and the USS Benfold, have passed through the narrow waterway separating mainland China from Taiwan.

Chinese officials involved in dealing with cross-strait issues should be able to assess the current situation properly, adopt a thoughtful and discreet approach before making comments, and handle cross-strait affairs in a pragmatic manner, the MAC said.

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The US downplayed the symbolic value of the passage, the first since the USS John McCain sailed through the strait in July 2017, insisting that US warships were conducting an ordinary freedom of navigation mission.

Despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties, Taiwan remains an important American ally in the region, and the Trump administration has sought closer ties between Washington and Taipei.

Relations between the United States and Taiwan have warmed recently as President Donald Trump signed legislation paving the way for mutual visits by top officials and the USA government approved a licence required to sell submarine technology to Taiwan.

A growing number of worldwide airlines and companies were also forced to change Taiwan's name to "Taiwan, China" or "Chinese Taipei" due to pressure from Beijing.

Koh also said the move was unlikely to be a one-off, adding that Beijing would continue to apply pressure on Taipei.

"If we need to do a comparison, Taiwan certainly ranks above other topical hot-button issues such as even the East and South China sea disputes", Koh said.

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