Satellite image shows 4 PLA warships in the shadow of American destroyers, Canadian frigates in the Taiwan Strait IG News

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At least four Chinese warships shadowed the US Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Higgins, and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver as they sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday.

A report in Taiwan News said the transit was probably accompanied by a Taiwanese military ship. The report quoted independent journalist Duan Dong who posted a photo taken from the Optical Imaging Sentinel-2 satellite on Twitter.

Duan told Taiwan News that the four ships belonged to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

A US destroyer and a Canadian warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday in the latest joint operation aimed at cementing the route’s status as an international waterway. China had described the route as “provocative” and said its navy was on high alert.

“PLA Eastern Theater Command personnel are on high alert at all times to resolutely counter any threat and provocation, and defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Xi Yi, a spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command.

Following the transit by USS Higgins and HMCS Vancouver, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) also reported tracking of Chinese military aircraft and four naval ships around the island.

According to the report, a photo posted on Twitter shows two PLAN ships sailing on opposite sides of the midline from HMCS Vancouver and USS Higgins. Behind Higgins are three other battleships: one east of the midline and two others south of the American battleship.

The Taiwan News report quoted Duan as saying that at least one PLAN ship was a Type 054A frigate. It was likely that the other three were also warships.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has announced only four PLAN ships, the fifth ship visible behind US and Canadian ships in the satellite image, may be of the Taiwan Navy, the report said.

The Taiwan Strait is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. Beijing, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory, also claims ownership of the strait.

The US has long used the “freedom of navigation” route through the Taiwan Strait to push back against Chinese claims, and Western allies have increasingly joined these campaigns.

USS Higgins, an Earl Burke-class destroyer, in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver, “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on 20 September … in accordance with international law”, said US Navy Seventh Fleet .

“The ship passed through a corridor in the strait that is beyond the territorial sea of ​​any coastal state.”

Canada said HMCS Vancouver was en route to join an ongoing mission to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea when it transited with the USS Higgins.

The last time US and Canadian warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait was 11 months ago when the destroyer USS Dewey and battleship HMCS Winnipeg visited.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have been rising since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August, prompting Beijing to respond by ordering several days of military drills. China is also angered by developments in Washington that it believes signal a shift in US policy away from the long-standing one-China policy toward Taiwan independence.