Two U.S. Navy ships passed through the Taiwan Strait today for the fourth time in recent months, in a move that is allowed under international law but usually provokes a negative reaction from China.
“USS Stethem (DDG 63) and USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Feb. 25 (local time), in accordance with international law. The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said in a statement to USNI News.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship paired up for what was the fourth strait passage in five months. USS McCampbell (DDG-85) and oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO-193) steamed through the 110-mile-wide body of water separating Taiwan from mainland China in January; USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and USNS Pecos (T-AO-197) conducted a Taiwan Strait transit in November; and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) conducted a strait transit in October.
Prior to the near-monthly strait passages, destroyers USS Mustin (DDG-89) and USS Benfold (DDG-65) sailed through the Taiwan Strait in July 2018, and USNI News reported at the time it was the first strait between China and Taiwan in a year.
PACFLEET did not comment on why so many Taiwan Strait transits had occurred in recent months.
This strait transit comes the day after President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he would delay a planned hike in tariffs on Chinese goods to give U.S./China trade talks more time to reach an agreement. Trump also departed today for Vietnam to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the second time regarding the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Elements of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group are sitting off the coast of Vietnam this week while the summit takes place.