America keeps poking the dragon: Destroyer and Canadian frigate sail through Taiwan Strait to show China it is international waterway – after Biden said army will be sent if Beijing invades
- A US warship and a Canadian frigate sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, even though China maintains it is their territory
- The United States has long used ‘freedom of navigation’ passages through the Taiwan Strait to push back against China
- ‘The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,’ said the US Navy
- President Joe Biden replied ‘yes’, when questioned on whether US troops would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack recently, angering Beijing officials
- The United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand also conducted a military exercise this week in nearby Fiji
A US destroyer and a Canadian frigate sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in the latest joint operation aimed at reinforcing the route’s status as an international waterway.
The United States has long used ‘freedom of navigation’ passages through the Taiwan Strait to push back against Chinese claims and Western allies have increasingly joined these operations.
The USS Higgins, along with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver ‘conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit… in accordance with international law’, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said.
‘The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,’ they continued, though Beijing‘s official position is that the Strait is part of their territory.
It comes after President Joe Biden was asked in an interview whether US troops would defend Taiwan and replied ‘yes’, if it were ‘an unprecedented attack.’
A photo of the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver sailing on the Taiwan Strait in an apparent show of force against China
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, pictured here, accompanied the Canadian frigate
President Joe Biden was asked in an interview whether US troops would defend Taiwan and replied ‘yes’, if it were ‘an unprecedented attack,’ drawing backlash from Beijing
Foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning, pictured, said: ‘The US remarks… severely violate the important commitment the US made not to support Taiwan independence’
The response drew backlash from Beijing, and a spokesperson said Biden’s remarks ‘severely violate the important commitment the US made not to support Taiwan independence.’
British, Canadian, French and Australian warships have made passages through the Taiwan Strait in recent years, sparking protests from Beijing.
They also frequently ply the South China Sea, another vital shipping area that Beijing insists comes under its domain despite a 2016 Hague ruling that dismissed its claims as well as rival ones from multiple neighbors.
The provocative passage of ships also comes as a military exercise in Fiji involving the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand is set to end this week.
The United States has promised greater engagement with the South Pacific after China and Solomon Islands signed a bilateral security treaty in May that has raised fears of a Chinese naval base being established in the region.
The traditional allies took part in exercises, named Operation Cartwheel, amid growing tension between China and the west, especially after Biden’s interview.
Biden’s comments mark the furthest the president has gone towards embroiling America in another global war amid rising tensions in the Far East.
It comes after he announced a $1.1 billion arms package for the island and vowed to keep boosting its defense as the prospect of invasion looms.
Formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan were cut by Washington in 1979, switching recognition to Bejing as the sole representative of China.
Taiwanese soldiers man an anti-aircraft gun on August 18, weeks before the US sold the island $1.1billion in military equipment
A photo from the USS Higgins transit across a corridor in the Taiwan Strait, which the US Navy maintains is international waters despite Beijing saying otherwise
However, at the same time, the US maintained a decisive, if delicate, role in supporting Taiwan.
Appearing on 60 Minutes on Sunday night – his first TV interview in over seven months – Biden was asked: ‘Would U.S. forces defend the island?’
He replied: ‘Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.’
Journalist Scott Pelley said: ‘So unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir. US forces, US men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?’
‘Yes,’ Biden said.
Despite the president’s black and white comments, after the interview a White House official said the US official policy towards the defense of Taiwan – the ‘strategic ambiguity’ outlined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act – remained unchanged.
‘The President has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year,’ the official said. ‘He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true.’
The president also seemed to reference the Taiwan Relations Act in the interview, saying the policy the US had maintained towards Taiwan for years remained in place.
‘We agree with what we signed onto a long time ago,’ Biden said in the interview. ‘And that there’s one China policy, and Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence. We are not moving – we’re not encouraging their being independent. We’re not – that – that’s their decision.’
The Taiwan Relations Act requires that the US provide Taiwan with munitions to defend itself should it be needed.