China on ‘high alert’ as US and Canadian warships cross Taiwan Strait

China has said that it was on high alert after US and Canadian warships made a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, a move that has angered Beijing amid heightened tensions in the region.

The drill was the second in a month by a US Navy ship and the second jointly by the US and Canada in less than a year, since October 2021.

The US Navy said: “Cooperation like this represents the centrepiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region.”

It added that the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Higgins and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate Vancouver made the transit through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state.

Canada’s defence minister Anita Anand said that the exercise shows her country is deeply committed to upholding global stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Today’s routine Taiwan Strait transit demonstrates our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” she said.

The exercise was welcomed by Taiwan despite condemnation from China, which claims Taiwan as a part of its own territory and objects to the island’s democratically elected government.

“This operation though the Taiwan Strait is, even more, a concrete demonstration of the resolute opposition of democratic allies to China’s expansion attempts,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It added that the ships sailed north through the waterway and its forces observed the mission but “the situation was as normal”.

The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army condemned the exercise and said that its forces monitored the ships and “warned them”.

“Theatre forces are always on high alert, resolutely counter all threats and provocations, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

On Wednesday, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference in Beijing that China was willing to make the greatest efforts to achieve peaceful “reunification”.

Beijing has proposed a “one country, two systems” model for Taiwan, similar to the formula under which the former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The proposal has been rejected by Taiwanese political parties.

Earlier this week US president Joe Biden said that American troops would come to Taiwan’s defence in the event of an attack by the People’s Republic of China but stressed that longstanding policy towards the island has not changed under his administration.

(Additional reporting by agencies)