USS Milius (DDG-69), a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is seen docked at the Port of Manila, Philippines, 18 August 2012. EFE-EPA FILE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

US missile destroyer sails through Taiwan Strait amid tensions with China

Beijing, Apr 17 (EFE).- The United States navy announced that a guided-missile destroyer conducted a “routine” transit through the Taiwan Strait, days after China staged large-scale military exercises around Taiwan.

“The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 16 (local time) through waters where high-seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement on Sunday, US time.

“Milius’ 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,” it added.

Last week, the warship sailed through waters near the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that Beijing disputes with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

At the time, China criticized the passage of the US naval destroyer, which it said “illegally” entered the waters near the Spratly Islands without the Chinese government’s approval.

The presence of the US destroyer in the area coincides with an escalation of tensions between China and the US following a meeting in California earlier this month between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In response to the meeting, China conducted four-day long military drills around Taiwan, including a simulation of a blockade of the island.

The Shandong, China’s second aircraft carrier and the first domestically built one, also participated in the exercises.

Taiwan is one of the top sources of tension between China and the US, mainly because Washington is Taipei’s key arms supplier and could be its greatest military ally in the event of a war with China.

China considers the self-ruled island part of its territory and says it reserves the right to use force to reunify it, even as a peaceful merger would be its first choice.

The island was the refuge of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) forces after losing the civil war with the Communists, who, since then, have claimed sovereignty over the territory.

In 1979, Washington broke diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing. However, the American Institute in Taiwan operates as a de facto embassy in Taipei. EFE