Tue, Mar 26, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Two US military vessels transited Strait on Sunday

Staff writer, with agencies

The USCGC Bertholf pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on June 29, 2012.

Photo: Reuters / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach / US Navy

US Navy and Coast Guard ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as Washington increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway.

The ships were identified as a US Navy destroyer, the Curtis Wilbur, and the US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, the US military said in a statement.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said. “The US will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The passage was the third such operation this year. The previous two transits were by guided missile destroyer the USS McCampbell and replenishment oiler the USNS Walter S. Diehl on Jan. 24 and the USS Stethem destroyer and the USNS Cesar Chavez cargo ship on Feb. 25 and Feb. 26.

The Ministry of National Defense in Taipei yesterday said the ships had passed through the Strait from the southwest and proceeded in a northerly direction, and that Taiwan’s military was fully aware of the situation.

China protested the latest transit, warning the US not to undermine relations between the two nations.

“China has been closely monitoring from start to end the passage by the US warships through the Taiwan Strait,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) told a regular news briefing in Beijing yesterday. “China has lodged stern representations with the US.”

The patrol came days before a scheduled visit to Beijing by US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

The White House also gave tacit approval to Taiwan’s request earlier this month to buy more than 60 F-16 jets, Bloomberg News reported, leading China to complain and putting a new strain on US-China ties ahead of the high-level visit.

It was not clear whether a jet sale would be used as a bargaining chip in the trade negotiations, or just part of the renewed focus on Taiwan by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, and has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the nation on drills in the past few years.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

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