US Warships Pass Through Taiwan Strait

Elias Hubbard
January 26, 2019

The US Navy sailed two warships through the politically sensitive Taiwan Strait on Thursday, CNN reported, quoting the US Pacific Fleet, which oversees operations in the area.

The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, which is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted "a routine Taiwan Strait Transit" on Thursday "in accordance with worldwide law", U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr.

Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement late on Thursday the United States ships were moving in a northerly direction and that their voyage was in accordance with regulations. Tim Gorman claimed that the sail is "in accordance with worldwide law".

For its part, the USA accepted the "one China" principle when it normalised relations with Beijing, but has avoided giving a precise definition as to what this would mean.

The military has hosted multiple drills since Chinese President Xi Jinping's (習近平) major speech about Taiwan on January 2, emphasizing what it says is a readiness to counter any invasion.

Two other pairs of US Navy ships also sailed through the Strait in October and November a year ago, only to be shadowed by multiple Chinese warships. "If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity", Gen. Li Zuocheng, a member of China's Central Military Commission, reportedly told Richardson.

Separately, Taiwan confirmed that on the same day the People's Liberation Army Air Force had sent military aircraft through the Bashi Channel, which separates the island's southern tip and the Philippines, into the West Pacific. Tim Gorman told CNN that the American vessels "conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit" that was in complete "accordance with worldwide law".

Following his visit to China, Richardson telegraphed Thursday's sailing, noting that the USA would continue to send warships wherever worldwide law allows.

After the Navy's November passage through the strait, China "expressed concern" to the US, according to a translated transcript of a press conference with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

"This is also in line with the general relationship between China and the U.S. - there will be ups and downs in the short term but in the long run bilateral relations will become more confrontational and intense over Taiwanese issues", Shi said.

It added that Taiwan closely monitored the operation to "ensure the security of the seas and regional stability". "We're just exercising the rights to pass through those waters in accordance with worldwide law".

"China Military Power" - a Defense Intelligence Agency report released last week - said Beijing's desire to reunify with Taiwan "has served as the primary driver for China's military modernization".

Despite Chinese military technological advances that pose an increased threat to U.S. warships, the U.S. Navy has said it has not ruled out sending an aircraft carrier through the strait, something it has not done in more than 10 years.

"I don't see any kind of limitation on whatever type of ship that could pass through those waters", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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