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US, Canadian warships transit through Taiwan Strait, irking China

A file photo of the USS Higgins (by Reuters)

A US navy warship and a Canadian frigate have carried out a provocative transit through the Taiwan Strait, prompting Chinese condemnation.

The US navy announced the sailing in a statement, saying that the guided-missile destroyer Higgins and the Canadian navy's frigate Vancouver had conducted the transit through a corridor in the strait that it said is beyond the territorial waters of any coastal state.

The naval maneuver marked the second transit through the strait in a month by a US navy warship, and the second joint transit by the United States and Canada in less than a year, the last one having been conducted in October 2021.

China said its military forces had monitored the warships in the latest episode and “warned them.”

"Theater forces are always on high alert, resolutely counter all threats and provocations, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the Eastern Theater Command of China's People's Liberation Army in a statement.

Canada's Defense Minister Anita Anand in a statement called the transit "routine."

Taipei's military said the ships had sailed north through the waterway and that its forces had observed the mission but that "the situation was as normal."

The development came a day after Beijing filed “stern representations” with Washington after US President Joe Biden vowed that American forces would defend the self-ruled island of Chinese Taipei in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Under the internationally-approved “one-China” policy, nearly all countries, including the US, recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over Taipei.

However, in violation of its own stated policy, and in an attempt to unnerve Beijing, Washington continues to court the secessionist island, engaging in diplomatic contact with its anti-China government and supplying it with massive shipments of arms.

The latest American naval operation through the Taiwan Strait also came on the heels of a move by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which now heads to the Senate floor. The act is aimed at designating Taipei a “Major Non-NATO Ally” and to provide “almost $4.5 billion in security assistance” to the self-ruled territory “over the next four years.”

China has denounced the new policy, imposing sanctions against the CEOs of two major US defense contractors for their role in the US-planned arms package for Chinese Taipei.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration notified Congress of its intent to transfer $1.1 billion worth of military equipment to Taipei, including 100 air-to-air missiles contracted with Raytheon.

In recent years, US warships, and on occasion those from US allies such as Britain and Canada, have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, drawing the ire of China.

A visit to Taipei by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August also enraged Beijing. China launched military drills near the island in response.

The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tensions since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Chinese Taipei in 1949 after being ousted in a popular revolution led by the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who founded and established the People's Republic of China.

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