US Warship Sails Into Taiwan Strait in Response to China's War Games

A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, amid the escalating tensions between the self-ruled island and China. The US Navy said the sailing of USS Milius was a routine transit, but it is seen as a strong response to the biggest ever military drill that China conducted around Taiwan.

According to the US Navy's 7th Fleet, guided-missile destroyer the USS Milius, was in Taiwan Strait to ensure the freedom of navigation in the disputed area. The vessel sailed through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law, the 7th Fleet said.

USS Milius
USS Milius in South China Sea mission US Navy

Last week, Taiwanese Foreign Minister said China was ready to launch a war against the independent island. Minister Joseph Wu cited the recently concluded military exercise around the self-ruling island, saying that the Chinese are getting ready for the war. "They seem to be trying to get ready to launch a war against Taiwan ... Look at the military exercises, and also their rhetoric, they seem to be trying to get ready to launch a war against Taiwan," Wu said.

"The Taiwanese government looks at the Chinese military threat as something that cannot be accepted and we condemn it," he added.

Earlier last week, China's military simulated precision strikes against Taiwan as part of its drills around the island. China, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, began the three-day military exercises around the island the day after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States.

US China Taiwan Strait

Taiwan's defence ministry said they had spotted 70 Chinese aircraft, including Su-30 fighters and H-6 bombers, as well as 11 ships, around Taiwan. The ministry said they were paying particular attention to the People's Liberation Army's Rocket Force which is in charge of China's land-based missile system.

In response, the US Navy sent its guided-missile destroyer USS Milius to carry out a mission in South China Sea. The US Navy said the mission was meant to uphold navigational rights in the South China Sea and was held near the Spratly Islands. "At the conclusion of the operation, USS Milius exited the excessive claim area and continued operations in the South China Sea ... This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea," the US Navy said.

Strategic Region

The South China Sea has huge oil and natural gas reserves beneath its seabed. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea. However, China has been militarizing the region by dominating the smaller Southeast Asian nations that claim rights to the islands.

The overlapping claims of sovereignty over two island chains by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei has made the South China Seas a sensitive region. The United States has strategic interests in the region as well, and it offers a counter balance against Beijing's influence in the waters.

Taiwan Strait
Taiwan Strait wikimedia commons

The US adopts a stern line against China's land reclamation, construction and militarization in these islands but China staunchly defends its claim to sovereignty in the region. Beijing's claim to vast swathes of the area challenges the territorial integrity of a handful of countries who say their exclusive economic zones are violated by Beijing. For the US, China's ultimate control of the waterway, through which trade worth trillions of dollars happens every year, is an absolutely unacceptable scenario.