The US destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) during an operation in the Taiwan Strait at an unspecified location in this photo provided April 17, 2023. US Navy/Facility via REUTERS

TAIPEI/BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) – The U.S. warship USS Milius sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday in what the U.S. Navy described on Monday as a “routine” transit, just days after China ended its last naval maneuvers around the island. .

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, officially ended its three-day exercises around Taiwan last Monday, during which it practiced precision strikes and a blockade of the island.

Beijing held the drills to express its anger over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US President Kevin McCarthy, seen as interference in China’s internal affairs and Washington’s support for Taiwan independence.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius conducted a “routine transit of the Taiwan Strait” through waters “where the freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in high seas in accordance with international law”.

The ship’s transit demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, the U.S. military added.

The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a social media post on Monday that it had mobilized forces to track and monitor the US destroyer throughout its operation.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the ship sailed north through the strait and the situation in the strait was “normal” while in transit.

The US Navy, which cruises the strait about once a month, also regularly carries out similar missions claiming freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea.

Last week, the USS Milius sailed near one of the largest man-made islands in the South China Sea, Mischief Reef, under Chinese control. Beijing denounced it as illegal.

China has continued its military activities around Taiwan since the drills ended, albeit on a smaller scale.

On Monday morning, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it had sighted 18 Chinese military aircraft and four warships operating around Taiwan in the past 24 hours.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Taiwan’s government rejects Chinese territorial claims, saying only the people of the island can decide its future.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Beijing Writing and Liz Lee; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Lincoln Feast; Editing in Spanish by Darío Fernández)

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