The US Navy has announced one of its destroyers transited the Taiwan Strait, separating autonomous Taiwan from mainland China – the sixth such transit this year. This one, however, comes amid media reports of Chinese plans to seize islands controlled by Taipei, and a week before Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen is sworn in for a second term.
Sixth Transit This Year
Early on Thursday, the US Pacific Fleet announced via its Facebook page that a US warship had sailed through the 180-mile-wide waterway separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. The autonomously governed island is preparing to inaugurate its anti-reunification president for a second term; meanwhile, the US is making moves to win Taipei’s admission to the World Health Organization (WHO) at Beijing’s expense.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told Reuters that Beijing “paid close attention” to the transit, adding, “We hope the US side can appropriately handle the relevant issue, and play a constructive role in regional peace and stability, not the opposite.”
Washington calls such maneuvers “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOPs), sailing through waters claimed by China as if they were international waters. Last month’s confrontation was far from the first; in October 2018, the Chinese destroyer Luyang sailed to within 45 yards of the US destroyer USS Decatur as the latter ship engaged in a FONOP near the Spratly Islands, also in the South China Sea.