US Navy warships poke China yet again in the Taiwan Strait

US Navy warships poke China yet again in the Taiwan Strait

WASHINGTON - US Navy has declared transit of another one of its warships through the Taiwan Strait, even after a new US-China trade pact and the re-election of Taiwan’s anti-China president, in a move likely to irk Beijing.

The passage on Thursday of the USS Shiloh guided-missile cruiser through the narrow waterway, separating the island from the Chinese mainland, was first announced by the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense and then confirmed by the US Seventh Fleet as a “routine” transit.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” fleet spokesman Lieutenant Joe Keiley declared, insisting that “the US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The development came a day after US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping sealed a “phase one” trade deal as part of a broader bid to reduce trade tensions that have stirred up global markets for more than a year.

The deal, however, is unlikely to resolve persisting and much wider strategic tensions between the US and an increasingly powerful China.

There has been no immediate reaction from Beijing on the latest passage of the US warship through the Taiwan Strait. While China says it does not oppose "normal passage" of foreign vessels through the strait, it has censured trips aimed at sending a geopolitical signal.

The passage came five days after the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen – who seeks greater US military support to counter any threat from mainland China -- won a landslide re-election victory. During her first term, Tsai has courted greater American military backing to defy Beijing’s long-standing policy of regarding Taiwan as part of its territory.

In her first interview since re-election Tsai further insisted that Taiwan is already independent, saying: "We don't have a need to declare ourselves an independent state. We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan."