Published: Tue, October 23, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

7th Fleet Ships Transit Taiwan Strait amid Security, Trade Tensions with China

7th Fleet Ships Transit Taiwan Strait amid Security, Trade Tensions with China

Two US warships have reportedly passed through the Taiwan Strait, a move that will likely be viewed by Beijing as yet another escalation amid Washington's ongoing operation to impose freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

The USS Curtis Wilbur, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and the USS Antietam, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, completed the 16-hour transit on Monday, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.

"Earlier today, the USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with global law".

"The Ministry of National Defense said today that two United States ships have sailed from the south to the north through the Taiwan Strait", said a translation of the statement.

MND issued a statement in the evening saying two USA military vessels are going through Taiwan Strait, which is worldwide waters, as a routine operation, but gave no further details about the passage.

China still sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949.

Although the USA and most nations consider much of the 110-mile Taiwan Strait to be worldwide waters, transiting there has always been a source of tension for Beijing.

Beijing perceives Taiwan as a breakaway province and has threatened to take military action if Taiwan attempts to declare independence. China has also constructed artificial islands atop submerged reefs in the South China Sea and placed weapons and aircraft on them.

In response, the US sent two aircraft carrier groups through the Taiwan Strait.

While a US Pacific Fleet representative claimed that the ship's journey "demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific", Taiwanese officials claimed that the island's defense ministry was in full control of the situation and "has the ability to maintain the security of the seas".

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