February 18, 2019

U.S. Navy warships sail through Taiwan Strait

09 July 2018, 06:25 | Devin Moran

The USS Mustin

The USS Mustin

A USA official confirmed the two ships were the USS Mustin and USS Benfold.

Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown called the passage of the ships "a routine transit".

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.

In response to the announcement, Taiwan has lodged a protest with Air India and the ministry of foreign affairs and civil aviation in India and has requested that its proper name is restored, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The military is monitoring the situation in neighboring areas, and has the confidence and abilities to maintain regional stability and defend national security", it said in a statement late Saturday.

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 move is considered the first United States naval activity in the area since July previous year.

Although the USA does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is its most powerful ally and top arms supplier.

Another irritant in the U.S.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of the Chinese Civil War almost 70 years ago.

Beijing has also managed to deplete Taipei's diplomatic allies, luring away four since Tsai came to power and leaving it with only 18 countries worldwide that recognize it over China.

Beijing is also incensed by the recent warming relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, after 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.

The increasing engagement with Taiwan comes amid rising tensions between China and USA over the Trump administration's trade policies and accusations that China is unfairly benefiting from existing trading practices.

U.S. Marines usually guard missions in countries with which Washington has formal diplomatic ties.

At a daily briefing Monday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had "played close attention to" the passage of the ships, but declined to connect the incident to other issues affecting relations between Beijing and Washington.

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

Former Taiwan Vice President Lien Chan, of Taiwan's pro-China and former ruling Nationalist Party, is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week.

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