The U.S. Navy has conducted a Taiwan Strait transit to “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a free and open IndoPacific,” according to a statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.
Navy destroyer USS Russel conducted the transit in the area, which borders the areas just North of the much-disputed South China Sea. Recent Chinese maneuvers, such as moving aircraft carriers into areas of potential threat to Taiwan, got the attention of U.S. and allied international observers, sparking public comments regarding the need for peaceful navigation and non-provocative exercises.
“The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” the NAVSEA twitter post states.
While stated in a non-inflammatory way, the Navy transit does appear as a clear message to Chinese maneuvers in the region to remind the world of its commitment to Taiwan’s independence. Clearly, the Navy does not wish to be aggressive or provocative, but does want to express its resolve to challenge or counter Chinese activities it may deem somewhat threatening. While being on the periphery of the South China Sea, sensitivity regarding waterways near Taiwan to pertain to the broader, long-standing tensions regarding the South China Sea. While concern has never fully disappeared in recent months, it is increasing and moving back to the forefront in light of U.S.- Chinese tensions surrounding the Coronavirus.