A U.S. Coast Guard ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken completed a trip to Beijing during which he met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in a move that Chinese authorities called “public hype.”
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on June 20 through waters where “high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement Thursday.
“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” it added.
China often maintains that the strait, which separates Taiwan and mainland China, is part of its exclusive economic zone, while the United States and its allies regularly sail through and fly over the passage to emphasize their contention that the waters are international.
“Stratton’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows,” the Navy’s statement said.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the ship sailed through the strait from south to north and that the military had monitored the surrounding waters and airspace and concluded that the situation was “normal.”
China’s coast guard described the Stratton’s transit through the Taiwan Strait as “public hype” and said Chinese coast guard ships tailed the ship the entire way.
“The Chinese coast guard will strengthen patrol law enforcement in waters under China’s jurisdiction, and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and maritime rights and interests,” a Chinese coast guard statement said.
China has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan in recent months amid deteriorating China-U.S. ties, with Taiwan reporting Chinese military activities in the strait almost daily.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary and regularly sends ships and warplanes into airspace and waters near the island.
Earlier this month, the U.S. military released video of what it called an “unsafe” Chinese maneuver in the Taiwan Strait, in which a Chinese navy ship cut sharply across the path of an American destroyer conducting a “freedom of navigation” transit, forcing the U.S. vessel to slow to avoid a collision.