The US Navy sent a ship through the Taiwan Strait after China held military exercises
The US Navy sent its second ship in as many weeks through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday as tensions with China flared again in the East Asian seas.
The US 7th Fleet said the USS Port Royal, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, sailed near Taiwan “in accordance with international law.”
The US Navy and its allies conduct periodic freedom of navigation patrols around Taiwan, an autonomous democracy that China claims as its own.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command said it followed the US cruiser on Tuesday, according to state media, accusing the US of showing support for “Taiwan independence secessionist forces.”
The Eastern Theater Command made similar statements in late April after the US Navy sailed another warship through the 180-kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait.
The drill appears to be the latest in a tit-for-tat with Beijing, said Michael Mazza, a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, though it’s not yet a cause for concern.
“I think these interactions are becoming the new normal: frequent moments of some tension, but nothing that dangerous,” he told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, the PLA has engaged in its own military exercises.
On Friday, Beijing sent 18 warplanes in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, an area of land and sea around South China and Taiwan monitored by the Taiwanese military.
It was the largest departure since January 23, when Beijing sent 39 planes.
On Tuesday, the PLA flew 100 sorties from its aircraft carrier Liaoning, stationed off the coast of Okinawa, a Japanese island northeast of Taiwan that is also home to a US military base.
The PLA was likely testing the Liaoning’s capability and how fast planes can take off and land, said Liao “Kitsch” Yen-fan, a military and cyber affairs consultant at Doublethink Lab in Taiwan.
“They’re testing endurance and capability, and things like ongoing refueling and endurance have been tested on the last few cruises,” he said, to optimize performance.
But the Liaoning test also has political significance, he said, after the US State Department also angered Beijing by changing the language on Taiwan on its official website this week.
The website previously mentioned that the United States does not support Taiwan independence and recognized that there is “one China” made up of China and Taiwan. Instead, he simply refers to Taiwan as a close ally in Asia.
The policy has long been seen as a solution to the disputed political status of Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China, though it has all but abandoned claims to represent China since its transition to democracy in the 1990s.
While largely symbolic, removing these references is the latest show of US support for Taiwan. Under President Donald Trump and now President Joe Biden, the two sides have grown closer, and the change is reflected in greater vocal support and in arms sales.