Manila, Oct. 29 (CNA) The United States military will continue to advocate for free navigation through international waters, including those in the Taiwan Strait, a top U.S. Navy official said Monday, a week after the Navy sent warships through the strait.
"Parts of the Taiwan Strait are international waters. They are accessible to all who want to pass through them," said U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson at a press conference in the Philippines.
"They're part of the global commons, which is the foundation for free navigation, and so in this area, the United States and the United States Navy will continue to advocate for free navigation through those international waters, where we will operate and sail and fly or enter wherever international law allows," Richardson said.
The U.S. official's comments were made in response to a question from CNA on how he sees the current situation in the Taiwan Strait and what the U.S. military will do to help maintain peace and stability there.
He was non-committal on what operations the U.S. might have planned in the region for the future.
"I think it's not healthy to speculate on those sorts of things, but you can count on us to be persistent and consistent advocates for freedom of navigation through international waters," he said.
His pledge came after two American ships, shadowed by Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) warships, sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Oct. 22 and a Chinese destroyer came dangerously close to an American Navy ship in the disputed South China Sea in September.
The ships' passage were predictably criticized by China, though Beijing's response was relatively muted.
Richardson said the U.S. Navy will keep pressing for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and elsewhere and will continue to communicate with the PLA on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).
Meanwhile, noting that the Philippines and the other ASEAN claimant states in the South China Sea are negotiating a code of conduct (COC) to govern their actions in the sea, Richardson said any progress is a move in the right direction, whether the code is legally binding or not.
Richardson was in the Philippines to reaffirm strong U.S.-Philippines relations.