Guided-missile cruiser headed north through the strategic waterway in a show of ‘the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific’

It follows President Tsai Ing-wen’s landslide victory last weekend, after she campaigned on administration’s ‘record high’ relations with Washington

China said it closely followed and monitored a US Navy warship sailing through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, calling on the US to respect China’s territorial integrity.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the remarks after the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Thursday in the wake of the island’s presidential election.

“The issue of Taiwan is about China’s territorial integrity, and the most important and sensitive issue for China-US relations,” Geng said, adding the US should abide by the one-China principle.

Joe Keiley, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, on Friday said the USS Shiloh conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” in a demonstration of “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the US warship was on a general navigation mission when it sailed north, from the southwest of the island, through the strategic waterway separating

from mainland China.

It said Taiwan’s military had a “full grasp during the entire process of the neighbouring seas, the air and naval spaces, and other relevant developments, with no abnormalities during the period so all citizens may be at ease”.

The USS Shiloh’s passage came after President Tsai Ing-wen was

last Saturday, after campaigning on her administration’s “record high” relations with the United States and tougher stance against Beijing’s threats to the island.

Beijing claims self-governed Taiwan as part of its own territory, and has vowed to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary.

The US has increased the frequency of its Taiwan Strait transits in recent years despite Beijing’s protestations, with at least nine passages through the waterway last year. One of the most recent included the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville

, in what the US Navy said was a demonstration of “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Taipei has welcomed the US freedom of navigation patrols as a sign of Washington’s support for Taiwan, as its relations with Beijing have deteriorated since Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became president in 2016.

Beijing also sent its new aircraft carrier, the Shandong,

in November and December, in moves seen as military muscle flexing ahead of the island’s presidential elections. It has also held large-scale “encirclement” exercises and bomber training near the island in recent years.

Beijing has said that Taiwan is “the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations”, as ties between the major powers have been strained amid strategic rivalry over trade, technology, ideology, and competing interests in the region.


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