The Toowoomba transited the international waters of the strait as part of its deployment, an Australian official says.
An Australian warship has sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the sensitive and narrow waterway that separates Taiwan from China, provoking a warning from Beijing.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence did not name the ship in a statement released on Friday but said it entered the strait the previous day and sailed through in a southerly direction. Taiwan’s military kept watch throughout, the statement added without giving details.
An Australian official, quoted by the , confirmed that the Toowoomba frigate had transited the international waters of the Taiwan Strait as part of a regional deployment.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country’s position on the issue has been “consistent and clear”.
“We urge the parties concerned to refrain from taking provocative actions and causing trouble towards the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a regular briefing.
The sailing came at a difficult time in Australian-Chinese relations even as the two countries seek to get their ties back on track.
Last week, Canberra complained of an incident involving a Chinese warship and the same Australian navy vessel in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, in which an Australian military diver was injured.
‘Routine’ US transits
The US navy sends ships through the strait about once a month in what it calls “routine” transits. China also routinely objects to the voyages.
Euan Graham, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the Australian navy has regularly transited through the Taiwan Strait but “chooses not to publicise it”.
The analyst told Reuters that the Australian navy uses the Taiwan Strait because it is the shortest route between the East China Sea and South China Sea, and he warned against reading too much into the timing of the latest sailing.
“It’s a befitting coincidence but shouldn’t be misinterpreted as Australia going out of its way to make a point to China after the [earlier] incident,” he said.
“Transits through the Taiwan Strait shouldn’t be controversial, just lawfully going from the East China Sea to the South China Sea via the shortest route.”
Taiwan has complained over the past four years of repeated Chinese military activity around the the democratically governed island, especially in the strait.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province. Taiwan, which rejects China’s sovereignty claims, is gearing up for presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13.