The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway and Taiwan’s government supports U.S. warships transiting it, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, rebuffing claims from China to exercise sovereignty over the strategic passage.
The narrow strait has been a frequent source of military tension since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.
In recent years U.S. warships, and on occasion those from allied nations such as Britain and Canada, have sailed through the strait, drawing Beijing’s anger.
On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait”.
“It is a false claim when certain countries call the Taiwan Strait ‘international waters’ in order to find a pretext for manipulating issues related to Taiwan and threatening China’s sovereignty and security,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.
In Taipei, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said such comments were a “fallacy”.
“The Taiwan Strait is international waters, and the waters outside our territorial waters are subject to the ‘freedom of the high seas’ principle of international law,” she told reporters.
Taiwan has always respected the actions of foreign ships in the Taiwan Strait that comply with international law, including innocent passage, Ou said.
“We understand and support the U.S. freedom of navigation missions’ contribution to promoting regional peace and stability.”
Taiwan’s government says China has no right to speak for it or claim sovereignty, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their own future and the People’s Republic of China has never controlled any part of the island.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control and views the island as an inherent part of Chinese territory.