Two U.S. Destroyers Sail Through Taiwan Strait

July 7, 2018 6:56 PM
USS Benfold (DDG-65) and USS Mustin (DDG-89). US Navy Photo

Two U.S. guided missile destroyers transited the Taiwan Strait this weekend, a U.S. defense official confirmed to USNI News on Saturday.

The Japan-based destroyers, USS Mustin (DDG-89) and USS Benfold (DDG-65), entered the 110-mile wide strait between mainland China and Taiwan on Saturday local time.

“Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait on July 7-8,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News on Saturday. “U.S. Navy ships transit between the South China Sea and East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait and have done so for many years.”

Brown wouldn’t confirm any additional details of the transit. The Taiwan Ministry of Defense identified the destroyers in a statement to local press. The government in Taipei stated they monitored the transit, in the statement.

Officials would not confirm if there was a People’s Liberation Army Navy response to the transit of both ships. U.S. ships operating in the South China Sea are typically monitored and shadowed by PLAN warships.

In a tweet, the Chinese government-controlled Global Times indicated the ships were at least shadowed by Chinese vessels.

“The U.S. is aggravating Taiwan Strait tensions,” read the tweet. “The PLA Navy must have monitored the situation and has it under control, a military affairs expert said after two U.S. Navy vessels sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday.”

The transit of Benfold and Mustin is the first U.S. Navy transit of the Taiwan Strait since July 2017. Then, the Japan-based destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) made the passage. The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier made the passage was in 2007 by USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).

In June, newswire Reuters reported the Pentagon was working to resume at least periodic warship transits of the Taiwan Strait as a sign of support for Taiwan. Beijing has stepped up military exercises around Taiwan this year, which it views as a breakaway province and not an independent country.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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