U.S. Navy passes via Taiwan Strait for many years: U.S. Pacific Fleet

2018/07/08 20:00:58 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from DDG-65 Facebook (facebook.com/ussbenfold)

Image taken from DDG-65 Facebook (facebook.com/ussbenfold)

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) U.S. Navy ships have been transiting through the Taiwan Strait for many years, the U.S. Pacific Fleet confirmed to CNA after Taiwan's military made a rare announcement Saturday that two U.S. Navy vessels passed through the Taiwan Strait earlier that day.

U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown confirmed the passage of the two vessels.

"Two U.S. Navy ships conducted a routine transit through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait July 7-8 (local time). U.S. Navy ships transit between the South China Sea and the East China Sea via the Taiwan Strait and have done so for many years," Brown wrote in an email.

In a rare move, Taiwan's defense ministry announced in a press release that the two U.S. Navy vessels, Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers DDG-89 and DDG-65 moved into the Taiwan Strait from the south that morning and were continuing on a northeasterly course.

The ministry also affirmed that the military is in full control of the situation.

Asked to comment on the significance of the passage, Alexander Huang (黃介正), a professor in the Department of Diplomacy and International Relations at Tamkang University, pointed out that there is nothing new about U.S. Navy vessels passing through the Taiwan Strait.

"What is newsworthy is that the Ministry of National Defense made public the information, which means the issuing of a press statement was the result of two-way close communications between Taiwan and the U.S.," Huang said.

The U.S. allowing Taiwan's military to make public U.S. Naval vessels' operations is proof that the two countries have close and constant dialogue, he noted.

Releasing the information was meant to boost the confidence of Taiwan's people that U.S. is supporting Taiwan, Huang said.

Huang said that in doing so, the U.S. is also sending a "political statement" to China and demonstrating U.S. resolve that any attempt by China to coerce the people of Taiwan by force is unacceptable, he added.

Commenting on the issue, National Chengchi University Institute of International Relations Director Arthur Ding (丁樹範) also said the defense ministry's statement is targeting Beijing.

The reason behind the move is to show the strong U.S. support for Taiwan and that the U.S. places importance on regional stability and peace in response to Beijing's recent activities in sending military vessels and aircraft to the region.

Also, the passage also shows that U.S. freedom of navigation operations aren't just about China and the South China Sea but also applies to the Taiwan Strait, he added.

Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former captain of the ROC Navy corvette the Xinjiang, said that the two U.S. vessels were returning from attending Exercise Malabar, a trilateral naval exercise involving the U.S., Japan and India, held last month off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea.

Aside from sending a political message, Lu disclosed that in passing through Taiwan Strait, the two vessels could sail more safely by staying farther away from Super Typhoon Maria, which is moving toward the seas off northern Taiwan.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh, Matt Yu, Elaine Hou, and Joseph Yeh)

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