U.S. Navy Destroyer, Coast Guard Cutter Transit Taiwan Strait

March 25, 2019 12:58 PM
USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), USCGC Bertholf (WSML-750)

A U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer and a Coast Guard National Security Cutter completed a transit of the Taiwan strait early Monday, the fifth such transit in six months. The move was immediately decried by Chinese officials.

USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Bertholf (WSML-750)
completed transiting the roughly 110-mile wide body of water separating mainland China from Taiwan early Monday, according to media accounts and first reported by The Japan Times.

“[The ships] conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit March 24-25 (local time) in accordance with international law,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman, said in an email to USNI News. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) transits the East China Sea in 2013. US Navy Photo

Chinese officials don’t approve of the when U.S. sends warships through the Taiwan Strait.

“China has paid close attention to and monitored from start to end the passage of the U.S. military vessels through the Taiwan Strait. We have made representations to the U.S. side. We urge the U.S. to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and avoid damaging China-U.S. relations and cross-straits peace and stability,” Geng Shuang, China’a Foreign Ministry spokesman said during a regularly scheduled press conference Monday, according to ministry’s official English transcript.

U.S. foreign policy does not dispute China’s claim over Taiwan, according to the U.S. Department of State. However, China has a policy insisting foreign navy’s alert China ahead of time when planning to send warships through the state, a policy not backed by international maritime law, according to a Tufts University Law of the Sea Policy Primer.

The U.S. Navy does not honor China’s request when sending warships through the state in accordance with international law, which allows for vessels to move directly through territorial seas without performing military exercises.

Curtis Wilbur is part of the forward-deployed Destroyer Squadron Fifteen, based in Yokosuka, Japan. Bertholf is on a multi-month deployment to the Western Pacific from its homeport in Alameda, Calif.

Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf and crew depart Alameda, Calif., for a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean, Jan. 20, 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo

A week ago, Bertholf completed a patrol in the East China Sea, assisting in the enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolutions designed to prevent illicit ship-to-ship transfers at sea of commodities to and from North Korea, highlighted last week by Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, during his annual “State of the Coast Guard” speech.

Bertholf’s deployment “is an important national mission. It’s an important international mission,” Schultz said during his speech, speaking of the cutter’s current operation with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. “They will be utilized for best effect by their Navy bosses right now. We’ve made a commitment to support that commander for the good part of the calendar year 2019, then we will inform the future beyond that.”

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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