US Coast Guard ship sailed through Taiwan Strait after Blinken’s Beijing visit

A US Coast Guard ship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in a transit that China described as “public hype,” after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken having wrapped up a high-profile, widely watched visit to Beijing a day earlier.

The national security cutter Stratton made a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday “through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said on Thursday.

The politically sensitive strait, which separates China from the democratically governed island of Taiwan, is a frequent source of tension as Beijing steps up its political and military pressure to try to force Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty.

“Stratton’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows,” the 7th Fleet added in its statement.

The mission happened the day after Blinken ended a visit to Beijing, in which the two countries agreed to stabilize their intense rivalry so it does not veer into conflict, but failed to produce any major breakthrough.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the ship sailed in a northerly direction, and its forces monitored the situation which it described as “normal.”

The Chinese coast guard described the ship’s transit as “public hype.”

Chinese vessels tailed the US ship “all the way,” a spokesperson at China’s coast guard said in a statement, adding that China will “resolutely” safeguard its sovereignty and security and maritime rights and interests.

A security source told Reuters the US ship left the strait in the early hours of Thursday morning.

US military vessels, and on occasion those of its allies, have routinely sailed through the strait in recent years, to the anger of China, which views such missions as provocation.

This month the US Navy released a video of an “unsafe interaction” in the strait, in which a Chinese warship crossed in front of a US destroyer operating with a Canadian warship.

Taiwan’s military reports almost daily Chinese incursions in the strait, mostly warplanes that cross the waterway’s median line, which once served as an unofficial barrier between the two.

On Wednesday, Taiwan said Chinese warships led by the aircraft carrier Shandong sailed through the strait.

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