- The US Navy destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos sailed through the Taiwan Strait Wednesday.
- The manoeuvre through the closely-watched strait comes just days ahead of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit.
- Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been running high these past few months as a number of key issues, many of which are at sea, go unresolved.
The US Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait Wednesday, just days ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, accompanied by the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos, transited the strait, US Pacific Fleet explained to Business Insider in an emailed statement.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Dave Werner, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told BI. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The move could be seen as a message to China, which the US has accused of intimidation and coercion in the region, behaviour that runs contrary to the US vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The US military has used similar rhetoric for freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and other activities in that area that have at times run afoul of Chinese interests.
The US Navy sent two warships – the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam – through the strait in October. A similar operation was carried out in July, when the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed between mainland China and Taiwan.
Beijing is extremely sensitive to US military maneuvers near Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province.
The US Navy’s moves through the Taiwan Strait come just before Trump is expected to sit down to dinner with Xi at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of different issues, ranging from trade to tensions at sea, during their meeting.
In recent months, the US Air Force has repeatedly flown B-52 bombers over the South China Sea. In September, a US Navy destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands, where it was challenged by a Chinese warship that forced the American vessel off course.
Despite some goodwill gestures, such as the recent port call by the USS Ronald Reagan in Hong Kong, tensions between Washington and Beijing persist.
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