US and Canadian warships cross the Taiwan Strait after Biden vowed to defend the island


US and Canadian warships crossed the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, as President Joe Biden said over the weekend that the US would defend Taiwan if China attacked it.

A US Navy ship, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, made a “routine transit through the Taiwan Strait” on Tuesday, US Navy spokesman Mark Langford said in a statement.

Langford said the U.S. ship was “in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver.”

The two vessels were “passing through a strait corridor beyond the territorial sea of ​​any coastal State,” Lt. Langford said. The transport “demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Lt. Langford added.

Tuesday’s passage was the second time a US Navy warship made the trip in just over three weeks. The guided-missile ships USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville did so on August 28.

While the US called the transport “routine”, after Biden added fuel to tensions between Washington and Beijing in Taiwan, he told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he would use US troops to defend the island if China tried to invade.

The strait is a 110-mile (180-kilometer) stretch of water that separates the democratic island of Taiwan from mainland China.

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan – an island of 23 million people – although China’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled it. Beijing also claims sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters of the Taiwan Strait under Chinese law and its interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The US Navy, however, says most of the strait is in international waters, citing a UNCLOS definition of territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from a country’s coast. The US regularly sends its warships through the strait, and has made dozens of transits in recent years.

In the CBS interview, Biden was asked if “US forces, US men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”

“Yes,” the US president replied.

The comments echo Biden’s earlier pledge to defend Taiwan, though he specified on Sunday that “the men and women of the United States” would be involved in the effort.

Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations for the Canadian Ministry of Defence, confirmed Canada’s participation in the transport on Tuesday.

“After port visits in Jakarta, Indonesia and Manila, Philippines, HMCS Vancouver crossed the Taiwan Strait with USS Higgins, which was the most direct navigational route. This voyage was conducted in accordance with international law, including the rights of navigation on the high seas, the UN As stated in the Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Le Bouthillier told CNN.

Chinese aircraft and ships were in “various parts” of the passage of US and Canadian ships, the US military confirmed, but “all past interactions with foreign military forces were consistent with international standards and practices and did not affect the operation.” said Langford.

Beijing quickly condemned Biden’s comments over the weekend and reiterated its warning that China reserves the “option to take all necessary measures” to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“The US remarks seriously violate the one-China principle and the provisions of the three US-China communiqués. It is also a serious violation of the US’s important commitment not to support Taiwan’s independence,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said in a speech on Monday.

“It sent a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan’s independence separatist forces. China expresses its strong displeasure and firm opposition and has made serious representations in support of the US,” Mao added.

US and Canadian warships last passed through the strait 11 months ago, when the destroyer USS Dewey and the frigate HMCS Winnipeg made the trip.

After that incident, Major Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command for People’s Liberation, said in a written statement, “The US and Canada made provocations of a disgusting nature and created problems in the conflict, which jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said a “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and has refused to rule out the use of force. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei are at their highest in decades as China’s military conducts major military exercises near the island.