A U.S. Navy warship sailed across the strait for the first time since President Joe Biden came to power on Thursday.
The USS John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer stationed in Japan, made a routine voyage through the canal that separates China and Taiwan in compliance with international law, Lt. Joe Keiley, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, in testimony.
The ship transit demonstrated “US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said, adding that the military “will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows”.
Download the NBC News App for breaking news and politics
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference that his country was “closely” monitoring the warship.
“China will continue to maintain high levels of alert, respond at all times to all threats and provocations, and vigorously defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “It is to be hoped that the US will play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region, not the other way around.”
The trip is ahead of Biden’s eagerly anticipated foreign policy address at the State Department on Thursday, in which he will outline his vision for global challenges.
Tensions between the United States and China increased under the Trump administration, which increased support to Taiwan through arms sales and visits from senior US officials. They have already been compounded by disagreements over the South China Sea, Hong Kong, the coronavirus and trade.
In one of his final acts as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo lifted long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, which angered Beijing and sparked a violent reaction in the Chinese state media.
China regards Taiwan, with a population of 24 million, as a breakaway breakaway province. When the Chinese civil war between communists and nationalists ended with its first triumph in 1949, it installed a rival government in Taipei to rule the island off the southeastern coast of mainland China.
The US had only officially recognized Beijing since the 1970s, and the State Department said Wednesday that support for a “one-China” policy towards Taiwan has not changed. Under this policy, the US recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the only legal government and has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
However, Pompeo’s successor, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, expressed a strong “bipartisan commitment to Taiwan” in his Senate confirmation hearing last week.
“Part of that commitment is to make sure Taiwan is able to defend itself against aggression. And that commitment will absolutely stand in a Biden government,” he said.
He added that there was “no doubt” that China was the nation’s greatest challenge for the US.
Ed Flanagan contributed.