US sails warships through Taiwan Strait

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, Oct 23 (IANS) Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a show of force that comes amid heightened Washington-Beijing tensions.

The USS Antietam, a guided missile cruiser, and the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, transited the Strait Monday, sailing from south to north.

"USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on October 22, in accordance with international law," Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN.

"The ships' transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Two US defence officials told CNN that multiple Chinese warships shadowed the two US vessels during the transit, following at a distance considered to be safe.

The approximately 110-mile-wide strait separates the China and Taiwan and is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.

Beijing continues to lay claim to Taiwan, a self-governed, democratic island, which it views as a breakaway province.

The US Navy has not sailed an aircraft carrier in that area since 2007.

Last week, the US flew B-52 bombers near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and last month, the US Navy destroyer USS Decatur sailed within 12 miles of two of the Spratly Islands as part of what the US calls a "freedom of navigation operation".

--IANS

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