Two US warships transit Taiwan Strait

INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY::The military monitored the two warships’ free passage through the Strait and is fully knowledgeable about it, the defense ministry said

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 30, 2019 - Page 1

Two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the seventh such transit since July last year, the Ministry of National Defense confirmed yesterday.

The two US Navy vessels entered the Strait from the southwest, heading north, the ministry said in a statement, without naming the warships.

The US ships freely passing through the Strait is part of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the ministry said, adding that the military monitored the transit and is fully knowledgeable about it.

The two destroyers were identified as the USS William P. Lawrence and the USS Stethem, a Reuters report earlier in the day said.

The ships’ passage through the Strait demonstrates the US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, Reuters said, quoting a statement from the US Pacific Fleet.

The destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold on July 7 last year sailed through the Taiwan Strait. They were followed by the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam on Oct. 22, and the destroyer USS Stockdale and the replenishment oiler USNS Pecos on Nov. 28.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS McCampbell and fleet replenishment oiler the USNS Walter S. Diehl on Jan. 24 traversed the Taiwan Strait.

The destroyer USS Stethem and supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez on Feb. 24 transited the Strait, while the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the maritime security cutter USS Bertholf sailed through on March 24.

On April 6, the French frigate Vendemiaire passed through the 180km-wide Strait, a rare transit by a vessel from a European country.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday said that the Taiwan Strait is international waters and all types of vessel regularly pass through it.

The military has “overall and precise” information regarding all vessels that pass through the waterway, regardless of whether they are military or civilian vessels, she added.

Following the Vendemiaire’s passage, China notified France that it was no longer invited to last week’s naval parade marking the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Reuters reported, citing unnamed US officials.

Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a retired navy lieutenant commander, said that Sunday’s passage was different from others because the two vessels turned on their automatic identification system (AIS), allowing them to be monitored on the app MarineTraffic, which displays near real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide.

According to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, it is not mandatory for vessels used for official and military purposes to have their AIS on at all times, Lu said, adding that in the past, the US only disclosed passages through the Taiwan Strait in a press release.