US warships sail through the closely-watched Taiwan Strait, turning up the pressure on Phoebe Jane Burdeos


The US Navy sent the destroyer USS McCampbell and replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl through the Taiwan Strait Thursday.

It is the fourth time the Navy has publicly admitted to sending surface combatants through the closely-watched strait since the US restarted the practice last summer.

It comes at a sensitive time in US-China relations, and is likely to draw criticism from Beijing, which has previously bristled at US military activity in the region.

Two US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and Taiwan said multiple Chinese military jets flew near the southern tip of the self-ruled island to the West Pacific on the same day for a naval training exercise.

US guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted “a routine” Taiwan Strait transit “in accordance with international law,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Commander Tim Gorman told CNN.

The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell handle the phone and distance line during a replenishment-at-sea in the East China Sea on December 27, 2018. Photo: Reuters
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Gorman said. “The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The US Navy sailed two ships through the Strait in October and November, a manoeuvre that was followed by multiple Chinese warships sailing into the area.

The two US warships’ latest voyage is expected to further disrupt already rocky China-US relations. Beijing and Washington are embroiled in a trade war that augers to seriously damage both economies unless negotiators from both sides can reach an agreement before a 90-day truce called in December expires on March 1.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence confirmed two US warships did sail through the Strait, and that the excursion was continuing as of Thursday night.