US Navy warships sail through Taiwan Strait amid China tensions

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) transits the Philippine Sea for the completion of MultiSail 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Myers/Released)

By Joon Kim

Taipei-Two United States Navy warships sailed within the Taiwan Strait on Saturday (July 7), the Ministry of Defense R.O.C. announced, a tactic that could enlarge Washington’s tilting favor against Beijing.

The Ministry briefly observed that the two naval vessels had drawn themselves towards the seaway southerly, entered the Taiwanese strait, and later split apart wayward northeasterly, as they exited the East China Sea.

The Ministry also added below that it would “stress the absolute defense of its duties, command its surrounding dynamics, heartfeltly give powerful maintenance and stability of the area, and defend for national protection.”

Capt. Charlie Brown, a spokesperson for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, confirmed the report, saying that the transit was held “routine.” Also, Mr. Brown said, this transit had been “done so for many years.” The strait, which was last crossed by USS John S. McCain, rings as a sensitive topic for the U.S. and China.

No American aircraft carrier has sailed through the strait since 2007, and some U.S. military officials consider such transit as “overdue,” stated Reuters.

The Global Times, a state-based Chinese newspaper, wrote an editorial the following day, saying that China should not be swayed by what they call “psychological tactics” of the United States.

The passage is the latest development of an ongoing diplomatic strain between China and the United States. A trade war, which took place earlier this month, is set to retaliate against Chinese consumers, backfiring American products.

In recent months, the U.S. underwent several proceedings in favor of Taiwan, from passing the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows U.S. officials to visit, to convening a de facto embassy in June, further cutting ties against China.

President Trump signs the Taiwan Travel Act.

This act demonstrates the United States’ “continuing support to Taiwan and of its willingness to exercise its maritime rights in China’s periphery,” said Abraham Denmark, a former deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia below former President Barack Obama. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed the issue over Taiwan during his trip to China last month.

China has grown military presence over the South China Sea with artificial islands, while it continues to converse with the U.S. on concerns over North Korea. However, tensions reiterated, when China sailed an aircraft carrier in January. The Chinese military also performed large-scale military exercises near Taiwan, which the island called an act of “intimidation,” and analysts consider it as a warning against growing U.S. involvement with Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warns Taiwan will face ‘punishment of history’ for separatism.

After each staking governance over China and Taiwan over 70 years ago, Beijing still calls Taiwan a breakaway province, and must be forced into the mainland, if necessary. This hostility has overgrown since President Tsai, who continues to vocalize pro-independence, was elected into office in 2016.

Lien Chan, a pro-Chinese and a former Vice President of Taiwan, is set to negotiate, on his own behalf, with China’s President Xi in Beijing next week.