US warships pass through Taiwan Strait amid heightened tensions with Beijing

Leroy Wright
July 8, 2018

Two US guided-missile destroyers, the USS Mustin (DDG-89) and the USS Benfold (DDG-65), transited the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan's southern exclusive economic zone earlier yesterday on an apparent northeasterly course, the Ministry of National Defense said last night.

"The military is monitoring the situation in neighbouring areas, and has the confidence and abilities to maintain regional stability and defend national security", the statement read.

"Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the worldwide waters of the Taiwan Strait on July 7-8 (local time)", said Capt. Charlie Brown, a spokesperson for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The move also is considered sensitive because of China's claims over Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway province.

The passage through the Taiwan Strait, the first such one by a U.S. Navy ship in about a year, follows a series of Chinese military drills around the island that have stoked tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

Although the US does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is its most powerful ally and top arms supplier.

As far as is known, US Navy ships last crossed the Strait under then-US president George W. Bush in 2007, when the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its battle group sailed through the waterway.

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China's hostility toward Taiwan has grown since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the island's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Tsai has criticised China for attempting to change the status quo between the two sides and urged the world to "constrain" its ambitions.

In a move that could heighten tensions between Washington and Beijing, two US Navy destroyers have sailed through the Taiwan Strait, a US Navy official has confirmed to CNN.

US support for Taiwan is evident, as the Unites States continues to sell it military weapons even though it does not have diplomatic relations with the province.

U.S. Marines usually guard missions in countries with which Washington has formal diplomatic ties.

-China relationship continues to be USA support for Taiwan.

Reuters first reported last month that the United States was considering sending a warship and had examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage, but ultimately did not pursue that option perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China. "So there'll be no rolling back by China".

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