Sun, Jul 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US ships in Strait send a message to Beijing

By Tzou Jiing-wen 鄒景雯

On July 7, two US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in a high-profile maneuver sailed through the Taiwan Strait from south to north. The announcements by the US and Taiwanese militaries triggered immediate Chinese protest.

This could be interpreted as an indirect three-way dialogue between Taiwan, the US and China. This passage serves the dual purposes of warning the Chinese Communist Party and reassuring Taiwanese.

Few people know that this is a “pattern” that began at the time of the government transition in 2016, because it has not been widely reported.

However, this pattern is different from the situation during the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1995 and 1996 when the US military sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Strait, and the two should not be compared.

Sending an aircraft carrier indicates that a situation is being escalated, and even if it is only an exercise, it remains a sensitive issue. This time, destroyers sailed through the Taiwan Strait, deliberately reducing the risk of reigniting US-China tensions.

The last time the “two-ship model” was used was in 2016. In March and June that year, destroyers sailed through the Taiwan Strait. In terms of timing, the passages occurred after the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was sworn in. Both passes were low-key and intended as a signal to the People’s Liberation Army to ensure stability in Taiwan during the transfer of political power.

In July last year, the destroyers put in a new appearance. Following celebrations of the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sailed through the Taiwan Strait west of the median line between Taiwan and China on its way back to its home port in Qingdao.

Due to the sensitive state of the region, not only did Taiwanese navy vessels monitor the passage from the east side of the median line, but the USS Stethem destroyer also entered the Taiwan Strait and sailed along the median line to monitor it.

In contrast with the above situation, the two destroyers earlier this month were “carrying out a mission of free navigation,” as the US ship told the accompanying Taiwanese ships. This action is obviously intended to reiterate to Beijing that the Taiwan Strait is international waters, not Chinese waters, and passage through it is an established policy that specifically expresses US dissatisfaction with China’s unilateral attempt to change the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

Reliable sources have said that there was a public announcement this time because it was a deliberate review and amendment by US President Donald Trump and his administration of former US president Barack Obama’s administration’s failure to clearly and effectively address China’s expansion in the South China Sea.

In other words, having learned from its mistakes regarding the South China Sea, US Navy voyages in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea are to become routine, and the reason for these actions should be difficult for China to misjudge.

Since early 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has adopted a repressive strategy to stop official political, military and economic interaction with the Tsai administration. This irrational approach has opened up a lot of room for the US to intervene in the Taiwan Strait, and it is doing so with increasing intensity.

This story has been viewed 3377 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top