Special US warships in Taiwan Strait, first since Pelosi visit – officials

Taiwanese and American flags are held for a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan on March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Two U.S. Navy warships are sailing through international waters in the Taiwan Strait, three U.S. officials told Reuters, the first such action since U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan heightened tensions with China.

In recent years, US warships, and sometimes warships from allies such as Britain and Canada, have routinely sailed through the strait, drawing Beijing’s ire.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory over the objections of the democratically elected government in Taipei, began military exercises near the island after Pelosi’s visit in early August, and those exercises have continued.

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The trip angered Beijing, which saw it as a US attempt to meddle in China’s internal affairs.

On Saturday, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. Navy ships Chancellorsville and Antideme were still conducting the ongoing operation.

Such operations usually last eight to 12 hours and are closely monitored by the Chinese military.

The narrow Taiwan Strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated government of the Republic of China fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists who founded the People’s Republic of China.

Pelosi was followed a week later by a group of five other U.S. lawmakers after China’s military retaliated by conducting more exercises near Taiwan.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a US lawmaker on the Senate Commerce and Armed Services committees, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, the third visit by a US official this month, defying pressure from Beijing to freeze the trips.

The Biden administration has sought to sow tensions between Washington and Beijing, fueled by the visits, simmering confrontation and reiterating that such congressional trips are routine.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China has never ruled out using force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Taiwan’s government says the People’s Republic of China has never ruled the island and therefore has no right to claim it, and that only its 23 million people can decide their own future.

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Statement by Idris Ali; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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