Fri, May 24, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Two US warships sail through Taiwan Strait on way to multinational drills

SIGN OF SUPPORT:The transit came as the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia began operation ‘Pacific Vanguard,’ bringing together more than 3,000 troops


Two US warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the US Navy said yesterday, as Washington began multinational naval drills near Guam.

The US military said it sent two US Navy ships through the Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit of the sensitive waterway.

The voyage was viewed by Taiwan as a sign of support from the administration of US President Donald Trump amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The transit was carried out by the destroyer USS Preble and the oil tanker USS Walter S. Diehl, a US military spokesman told reporters.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific [region],” said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.

In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense said the two US ships had sailed north through the Strait. The nation’s military monitored the transit and nothing out of the ordinary happened, it added.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday wrote on Facebook that on Wednesday a US military ship equipped with an Aegis combat system sailed through the Strait.

The military used, according to regulations, joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to track developments in the waters and airspace near Taiwan the entire time to maintain regional peace and stability, she wrote.

During Wednesday’s passage there were no irregularities, she wrote, asking the public not to worry.

The transit came as the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia began operation “Pacific Vanguard” near Guam, bringing together more than 3,000 troops from the four nations.

The drills are focusing on “live-fire exercises, defensive counterair operations, anti-submarine warfare and replenishment at sea,” the US Seventh Fleet said.

For the Guam naval drills, Australia has contributed two frigates, Japan two destroyers and South Korea one destroyer. The USS Blue Ridge, the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, is leading the operation from the US side.

Home to more than 160,000 people, Guam was at the center of nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang in 2017, with North Korea threatening to hit the US territory with “enveloping fire.”

There was no immediate reaction from China.

On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島) claimed by Taiwan and China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.

The China Daily on Wednesday said in an editorial that China has shown “utmost restraint in responding to the incitements by the US.”

“With tensions between the two countries already rife, there is no guarantee that the presence of US warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries,” the newspaper said.

US warships have sailed through the Strait at least once a month since the start of this year. The US restarted such missions on a regular basis in July last year.

Beijing last month said that a Strait passage by a French warship was illegal.

Additional reporting by AFP and Su Yung-yao

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