The USS Antietam conducted a routine transit, according to the US Navy’s fleet as the country attempts to push back China’s claims on the sea with freedom of navigation operations. The move comes as China warned that it is ready for war if there was any move towards Taiwan’s independence. Beijing has accused the US of undermining global stability and denouncing its arms sales to the self-ruled island.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said: “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from US President Donald Trump’s administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
The US has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
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China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.
On Wednesday, Chinese Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said China would make its greatest effort for peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
He said: “If there are people who dare to try to split Taiwan from the country, China’s military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.”
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The news comes as the Philippines are considering inviting tourists to its biggest and most strategically important outpost in the disputed sea to push back China’s claims.
Thitu Island, also known as Pagasa, is in the midst of major upgrades to its dilapidated facilities as it plays catch-up with China and Vietnam.
The two countries have been developing facilities on islands they either occupy or have built from scratch on top of submerged reefs.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “We are on track in rebuilding or repairing our runway in Pagasa.
“Plus, in the future, we will be building structures for our troops there and maybe some hotels for Filipinos who would like to go there as tourists.”