TAIPEI, June 14 (Reuters) – 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 Aegis-class U.S. Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur. Mai / The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images file

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.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the country “has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait”.

The United States and Taiwan have announced that a US guided-missile destroyer, USS Sampson, sailed through the Taiwan Strait. Photo: Naval Aircrewmen 2nd Class John Allen/AP

“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 this photo provided by U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard cutter Munro, bottom, and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Large Aso transit together in formation during a maritime engagement in the East China Sea on Aug. 25, 2021. China’s defense ministry protested Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021 the passage of a U.S. Navy warship and Coast Guard cutter through the waters between China and Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

In Taipei, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said such comments were a “fallacy”.

The U.S. Navy’s USS Dewey. A similar Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 26. (Reuters)

“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.

Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) sails with U.S. Navy Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea, April 18, 2020. (Reuters)

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.”

The guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday. Photo: US Navy

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.

The guided-missile destroyer Mustin transited the Taiwan Strait on Dec. 19, 2020. (Navy)

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.