US warships pass through Taiwan Strait amid heightened tensions with Beijing

Two U.S. warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday on a voyage that will will likely be viewed from the self-ruled island as a sign of support by President Donald Trump amid heightened tension with China.

“Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait on July 7-8 (local time),” Captain Charlie Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Reuters in a statement.

“U.S. Navy Ships transit between the South China Sea in addition to East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait in addition to have done so for many years,” Brown said.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the destroyers Mustin in addition to Benfold carried out the passage.

Earlier on Saturday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the ships were moving in a northeastern direction, adding that will the situation was in accordance with regulations.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan however is usually bound by law to help the idea defend itself in addition to is usually the island’s main source of arms. China regularly says Taiwan is usually the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.

The passage through the Taiwan Strait, the first such one by a U.S. Navy ship in about a year, follows a series of Chinese military drills around the island that will have stoked tensions between Taipei in addition to Beijing.

“The US is usually aggravating Taiwan Strait tensions,” state-controlled Chinese tabloid The Global Times, which is usually run by the Peoples Daily, said on Twitter.

“The PLA Navy must have monitored the situation in addition to has the idea under control, a military affairs expert said after two US Navy vessels sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday,” the idea added.

China claims Taiwan as its own in addition to has never renounced the use of force to bring under its control what the idea sees as a wayward province. Taiwan has shown no interest in being governed by the ruling Communist Party in Beijing.

The move comes as a U.S.-China trade fight is usually seen as dragging on for a potentially prolonged period, as the planet’s two biggest economies flex their muscles with no sign of negotiations to ease tensions.

Reuters first reported last month that will the United States was considering sending a warship in addition to had examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage, however ultimately did not pursue that will option perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, in addition to some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is usually overdue.

U.S. overtures towards Taiwan, coming from unveiling a brand new de facto embassy to passing the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. officials to visit, have further escalated tension between Beijing in addition to Taipei.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discussed the delicate issue of Taiwan during his trip to China last month.

“The U.S. sending military ships through the Taiwan Strait is usually both a demonstration of its continuing support to Taiwan in addition to of its willingness to exercise its maritime rights in Chinas periphery,” said Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises that will year, including flying bombers in addition to some other military aircraft around the island in addition to sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating the idea coming from Taiwan.

In recent months, China’s air force has held military maneuvers near the island, which Taipei has called intimidation.

China’s hostility toward Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen coming from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections on the island in 2016.

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