In the latest turn of events amid the US-China trade war, Washington has once again challenged Beijing’s claims by sailing two warships through the Taiwan Strait. A spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, Commander Clay Doss said the ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Taiwan decoded this as a ‘sign of support’ from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake by force if necessary. But Taiwan’s leaders say it is clearly much more than a province, arguing that it is a ‘sovereign state’. Taiwan has its own constitution, democratically-elected leaders and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces.
Reports highlight that mainland China has repeatedly called on the US to steer clear of the 110-mile wide strait over concerns of military support being given to Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait divides Taiwan from mainland China. Beijing has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past couple of years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The United States is concerned that Beijing’s growing military prowess may increase the risk that it could one day consider bringing the self-ruled island under its control by force. A senior US official said they are closely watching China as it expands and modernizes its military capabilities.
According to experts, Taiwan is only one of the growing number of ‘flashpoints’ in the US-China relationships, including a trade war, US sanctions on the Chinese military and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea. The US is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself and is Taiwan’s main source of arms.