The United States sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Monday as the U.S. military increased the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.
The two vessels “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Mar. 24-25 … in accordance with international law,” U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Lt Joe Keiley said. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The mission was unusual, experts said, in that it was believed to be the first one involving a coast guard vessel.
US again sends ships through the #Taiwan Strait, this time apparently with a two-part twist: Japan-based #destroyer CURTIS #WILBUR DDG54 went thru on Sunday 24 March, while deployed US #Coast Guard cutter #BERTHOLF WMSL750 passed thru on Monday 25 March. https://t.co/oGivAJJn1z pic.twitter.com/5z4EOoEPgo
— Chris Cavas (@CavasShips) March 25, 2019
In February, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Stethem, and a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship, the USNS Cesar Chavez, sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
The US has sent the naval destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf through the Taiwan Strait
The US Navy’s Seventh fleet said in a statement that the ships “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit [on] March 24-25 (local time) in accordance with international law.”
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Cdr. Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet said, as quoted by the CNN.
The passage of US warships takes place amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two are currently engaged in the process of negotiating a trade deal.
Meanwhile, the US Navy is continuing to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, which Chinese authorities consider a provocation.
The strait divides Taiwan from mainland China. Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of a united China. Relations between the two were cut in 1949 after the remnants of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fled to the island following their defeat on the mainland. Relations were partially restored in the 1980s.