Two U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers sailed through the Taiwan Strait separating mainland China from the island of Taiwan amid heightened tensions.
“Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait on July 7-8 (local time),” Reuters quoted Captain Charlie Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The new development came amid a growing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Trump administration imposed 25 percent duties on Chinese imports while China imposed retaliatory tariffs on American imports.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, USS Mustin (DDG-89) and USS Benfold (DDG-65), transited the strait from south to northeast beginning Friday night and concluded mid-afternoon Saturday. Both Mustin and Benfold are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. They are assigned to the Destroyer Squadron 15 (DESRON 15) and are based at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.
The destroyers are the first American warships to pass through the strait since July 2017, when USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) made the transit. USS John S. McCain is also an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Some American military officials believe that a transit of the strait by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is long overdue. The last time a U.S. carrier passed through the strait was in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, when supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and its battle group sailed through the waterway.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said that the Republic of China Navy monitored the passage of the two destroyers in accordance with regulations. The country’s Presidential Office said that Taiwan has always valued peace and stability in the Strait and in the region.
The passage through the Taiwan Strait follows a series of Chinese military drills around the island that have stoked tensions between Taipei and Beijing.